There’s a beautiful view at Valley Health Lifestyles at the Valley Center for Health and Wellness on MacArthur Boulevard in Mahwah. We visited on a beautiful autumn day just as the leaves were passing their peak, blazing brilliantly over the property, creating a stunning vantage point through the Center’s floor to ceiling windows.
However, the view inside the Lifestyles fitness center itself is equally impressive. The first floor comprises a fitness center, basketball court, and aquatics area. Proceed to the second floor for a run around the indoor track or to pump iron in the free weight area. The expansive, immaculate space is inviting and lets in plenty of sunlight, adding to the welcoming feel.
LaShawn Michalski, Exercise Specialist, has been with Valley for ten years and worked at Lifestyles since its opening three years ago. “Exercise has such significant physical and psychological benefits,” says LaShawn. It helps manage chronic disease, weight maintenance, blood pressure, and cholesterol. It aids in building bone density. From a psychological angle, it releases serotonin and endorphins, which help relieve anxiety and depression.
From a pandemic perspective, LaShawn notices another benefit for members—the ability to be social again. “We are seeing members get joy from the social aspect of working out. We haven’t been able to gather very much because of social distancing, and I am seeing our members enjoy being surrounded by people who share the same wellness goals,” she says.
Valley’s prescribed exercise programs reach far beyond fitting into your pre-COVID jeans. Their focus is on providing the “medical fitness difference.” Besides serving clients who wish to address typical fitness and wellness needs, the Valley Center for Health and Wellness offers a physical therapy department that serves clients who have recently undergone surgery or are under a doctor’s care. With its mission to provide a continuum of care for its members, it also houses a retail pharmacy, imaging and bloodwork departments, and a SuperJuice Nation juice bar.
“If the clients are rehabbing or in physical therapy, our certified physical therapists can work with them right here,” says LaShawn. When they are ready to transition to regular membership, we can manage their clearances directly with their doctors who provide the guidelines on what that client needs to accomplish.” The Center has recently opened a Cardiac Rehab program, which facilitates the transition from physical therapy to a mainstream fitness program so that clients can reach their individual fitness goals.
Member Don Hoover can attest. Having joined the facility when they opened in 2018, the Mahwah resident swims, uses the fitness center, and attends group cycle classes. When Don discovered he needed to have an atrial fibrillation cauterization, he felt confident having Dr. Mark Preminger, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Valley, perform the procedure and oversee his recovery at Lifestyles.
“Performing my rehab at Valley gives all of us an additional level of comfort with the quality care at this facility,” says Don. “I enjoy the convenience of Valley and appreciate this safe environment,” he says, “I’m also a part of the Member Advisory Board here. We meet every month to review membership data and provide feedback on the programs. I appreciate having a voice in discussions regarding improvements, classes, swimming policies, and the ability to participate with the management,” says Don.
“I hold our facility to a higher standard because we are an extension of Valley Hospital,” says Rob Angner, Executive Director of Valley Health Lifestyles. “I feel strongly about our qualified staff, their level of engagement, and their understanding of safety protocols. We aren’t a commercial gym. We are a medical fitness center, providing hospital-grade filtration, cleanliness, and safety in collaboration with Valley and our medical director, Dr. Robert Silverman. Valley Health Lifestyles always strives to take it to the next level.”
The challenges of COVID have brought Valley’s position as a medical fitness center to new light. With indoor classes limited due to spacing and cleanliness of critical importance, Valley continues to meet the issues head-on.
“Our Safety Ambassadors are a new role we’ve created to help us work through the pandemic,” says Rob. “They are responsible for ensuring that we keep Lifestyles as safe as possible for our members. Our Ambassadors are truly a resource for our members’ comfort.” Ambassadors ensure social distancing, temperature checks, and the Center’s “clean in, clean out” policy of hand sanitizing. They remind members and staff to wear masks properly and maintain their workout space. They continually disinfect equipment and areas with a Victory spray gun (fondly nicknamed the Green Dragon) each hour.
Valley has been generous with its membership “hold” policies to ensure that members feel safe and comfortable during COVID. Rob says, “If it’s not quite the right time for a member to come back, that’s ok. We are working to meet people where they are, even if that is still at home.”
In light of this, Valley is creating a new video program called “Lifestyles at Home,” which will feature live-streaming classes for the community and a new app for members allowing them to connect with their personal trainer and do the “workout of the day.”
Next year, the organization plans to launch its Physician Referral Program to enhance patient-physician wellness collaboration. The program’s focus is to engage doctors to prescribe and encourage exercise as an element of treatment. The program will demonstrate meaningful outcomes in the patient’s progress directly through Valley’s medical records platform.
Integrated health programs and preventative medicine are the right prescriptions for wellness. “Our medical fitness program really makes the difference,” says Rob.