Health Check: Hospital-based gym

The Wellness and Fitness Center at South County Hospital.

Ray Nerney has been going to the Wellness and Fitness Center at South County Hospital since 2001.

First, it was for rehabilitation after he had a heart stent placed to keep an artery open. Then he decided to join.

"The people are friendly here. They know what's going on. They watch. They take care of you," Nerney said.

The wellness center became his wife's gym too.

Then there's Helen Smith. She started going five-and-a-half years ago with her husband who, like Nerney, had a heart stent procedure.

"The staff here, they're so knowledgeable. They're so professional. They're so kind. They're so good to you. You get as much one on one here as you need," Smith said.

The center is open to anyone who wants to join. You don't have to be a patient or married to one. But first, you need medical clearance.

The cost is anywhere from $5 a month if you have Blue Chip Senior to $65 a month. Couples get discounts.

"We have a lot of resources. They can connect with pharmacists for medication management, which is a huge issue for seniors, obviously. We have nutritionists. We have diabetes experts, exercise specialists who really work with people and help them. I always say our goal is about helping them with their goals," said Delaine Wright of South County Hospital.

There are classes for balance, toning and strength. Smith and her husband are regulars.

"We come three times a week. We come Monday, Wednesday and Friday," Smith said. "If we go on vacation, we come back, we find out what the benefits of exercise are."

What's more, you have a medical staff on hand, to check your vitals.

"If something looks wrong, they stop you from doing what you're doing and they check you out," Nerney said.

These gym-goers say the center also provides something beyond physical wellness.

"I think this really fills a social gap for us," Smith said.

"I have a lot of friends here because of it. Actually, we go out once a month on Friday nights with the ball class," Nerney said.

Anyone can join the gym, but most of its members are seniors, some of them well into their 90s.