Mark Hayward's City Matters: An exercise in getting better
4/7/14 -- Jason Carter and Mary Keeler lift weights at the downtown YMCA while their In Shape trainer, Deb Acres, looks on. MARK HAYWARD / UNION LEADER
You strengthen some muscles. You tighten up some of the flabby paunch. And after your blood's raced through your body like it's a NASCAR course, you leave sucking on a water jug spiked with a shot of accomplisment, a splash of optimism.
That's what a couple hundred mentally ill people in Manchester are experiencing, thanks to a statewide, experimental program that is getting them out of lonely apartments and into gyms. There they are pumping iron, running treadmills and getting tips on proper eating.
Now she carries 176 pounds on her 5-foot, 7-inch frame, and her arm muscles slightly ripple as she curls a barbell at the Manchester YMCA.
"I feel liberated," she said.
Local gyms are supportive, and gym membership helps to break down community barriers for the mentally ill, said Ken Snow, a social worker and spokesman for Manchester Mental Health.
Snow cautioned that a workout regiment won't cure mental illness, but it could help reduce symptoms enough so a patient can live comfortably, he said.
Her trainer, John Curtis, said Gaertner has avoided hospital stays because of the activity. "I didn't like the way I was. It was depressing, I was big," Gaertner said. "I'm happier now."
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