Exercising for life
by Cally Peterson
Exercise physiologist Madeline Ranum checks Lori Solberg’s blood pressure during a workout at Jamestown Regional Medical Center.
Regular exercise promotes healthy lives – at all ages. Starting a workout routine for the first time, or getting back to the gym after a break, can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be hard, says Madeline “Madey” Ranum, a cardiopulmonary rehab coordinator for Jamestown Regional Medical Center (JRMC).
“To get a cardiovascular benefit, you only need 30 minutes of moderate activity (5 days a week), which helps keep your heart and lungs in shape,” she says. “Exercise helps your body be more effective at using oxygen, increasing your heart’s ability to pump blood to your muscles.”
Physical activity can also help with weight loss, boost mental health and improves your immune system to a certain extent, Ranum says. With health and wellness being top of mind this past year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps there is no better time to commit to an exercise plan.
“I know when I didn’t exercise this past year, I felt it more than ever,” says the Jamestown College (now University of Jamestown) track, cross-country and basketball alum. “Just hearing people talk about what they’ve been through this past year, it’s a lot. Exercise can be an outlet.”
A NEW KIND OF PATIENT
Most people Ranum sees in JRMC’s cardiopulmonary rehab program typically suffered a recent heart event, such as a heart attack, stent placement, open-heart surgery, heart failure or valve replacement. But since last year, she’s seen an influx of new patients who fall into a different category – recovering from COVID-19.
These patients frequently exhibit shortness of breath and fatigue. Some are still using oxygen when they see Ranum for the first time. Their pulmonary function test, which is completed before starting the cardiopulmonary rehab program, might show “restrictive lung disease” or “lung scarring,” Ranum says. Patients range in age from 20-something to those in their 40s, 60s and beyond.
Lori Solberg falls into this new patient category. A Northern Plains Electric Cooperative member and customer service manager for Dakota Central Telecommunications Cooperative in Carrington, Solberg was diagnosed with COVID-19 in October, soon after losing her 90-year-old father to the coronavirus.
“October was kind of a nightmare,” she says.
Solberg was in hospitals in Carrington and Fargo from Oct. 22 through Nov. 17, unable to receive family and visitors for the first part of her hospital stay due to COVID-19 precautions. She says her thoughts turned to wondering if she’d “ever be back to normal again.” It wasn’t until the tailend of her hospitalization that she began to feel better.
When Solberg was discharged from the hospital, she was using oxygen therapy and could only walk 10 to 15 steps. Back in Carrington, she had access to home-health services. This provided the assistance Solberg needed to regain strength and tackle everyday activities, like going up and down steps and doing laundry. By the first of December, she had weened herself off oxygen.
“I knew I had to try to help myself,” Solberg says. “If I didn’t do something, I wouldn’t get better.”
After consultation with her pulmonologist in Fargo, Solberg enrolled in JRMC’s cardiac rehab program in January. Twice a week, she makes the 45-mile drive to JRMC to work with Ranum.
Solberg’s cardiac program started with six-minute walks. Her oxygen saturation levels measured between 89 and 93 percent. Two months later, Solberg was completing 40-minute walks without her oxygen dipping below 94 percent.
“She stuck with it,” Ranum says of Solberg’s progress.
“They (in the cardiac rehab program) didn’t push me, and I gradually worked into it,” Solberg says. She is currently in Phase 3 of the program, or the maintenance phase. The next phase? Implementing the strategies she’s learned in the program at home and exercising on her own.
“It feels good to do even little things, because when I left the hospital, I didn’t even know if I’d be able to put the laundry away,” she says.
Solberg looks forward to resuming all her pre-coronavirus activities. She returned to her job of 21 years at the local telecommunications co-op in early January. She is bowling again and will get back on her bike when the weather warms, doing “the loop” around Carrington with her neighbor. She may even share a wave with Ranum, also a Northern Plains Electric Cooperative member and Carrington resident, and her family – husband, Tim, and almost 2-year-old, Zoey.
Knowing Madey, an easy, warm smile will return Solberg’s greeting.
“Why I went into this field, I saw the benefits of what an active lifestyle can be,” she says. “It’s one of the coolest parts of health care, because you get to help keep people out of the hospital.”