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Doing 'well' in Sibley: Activities are plentiful at Osceola Community Wellness and Rehab Center

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Class instructor Stacy Grunow (from left) leads students Marcia Oldenkamp and Callie Erickson in exercises at the Wellness Center in Sibley, Iowa.1 / 2
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SIBLEY, Iowa -- The hum of ellipticals, bikes and a high-tech "Skywall" fill the air as you enter the Osceola Community Wellness and Rehab Center, but nothing can hide the fact that the staff and clients are comfortable and glad to be there.

"Hey, Tyler, what's up?" one elderly man asks as he walks by on his way to claim a machine.

Tyler Ommen, a certified personal trainer, is giving a tour of the facility. The first stop is at the Polar Heart Monitor station. The "watches" and heart monitor are required gear for anyone using the facility.

The Osceola wellness center is the first facility in the U.S. to require its members to wear the watches at every point in their workout routine. Polar Electro Inc., which makes the watches, calls the wellness center a "medical model" to the world.

Julie Schroeder, director of nursing at Osceola Community Hospital, the home of the wellness center, said use of the watches is a safety issue.

"Since we've used the watches, at least one person discovered that he had some serious heart issues, and we were able to get him into the hospital and help him out," she explained. "Before using the monitor, he had no idea of his troubles."

Ommen, too, emphasized that in addition to safety, keeping accurate records of one's heart rate is a huge benefit with the watches.

"Clients can track the number of minutes they are in their zone," Ommen said. "They can see their max heart rate, and then get printouts if they want to see it all on a graph."

When clients first come to the wellness center, they undergo assessment and orientation with qualified personnel. In addition, an individual membership includes two personal training sessions per year -- or four sessions with a family membership.

Families have a unique place at the wellness center. Every piece of exercise equipment comes in two sizes -- standard and approximately three-quarter size, so that parents and their middle-school and older kids can work out together.

People of all ages fill the facility, however. At mid-morning, seniors occupied the exercise machines and 2-year olds from Bright Beginnings day care center zig-zagged down the hall to spend time playing in the multi-purpose room. Later in the day, visitors will find after-school programs -- including but not limited to dance and tumbling -- or adult classes in the evenings, ranging from step aerobics to Body Rock to yoga to Zumba. Additionally, during the day, a Senior Silversneakers class is offered, as well as Chair Yoga or circuit training. Physical therapy and cardiac rehab patients also make use of the facility.

Other offerings at the wellness center are the SwimEx Therapy pool, the virtual reality bikes and the aforementioned "Skywall" -- a motorized climbing wall that can be adjusted for speed and degree of incline.

"We got the wall through a grant," Ommen said. "People really like it."

The two virtual reality bikes take their riders on a physical and visual workout. Riders have no excuse to be bored as they not only see their outdoor route on a screen, but their bikes adjust to the conditions of the road. Besides looking fun, it can be an ideal way to add spice to one's workout routine.

"With all the stuff we have, people can change things up, vary their types of exercise." Ommen said. "That keeps them alert and interested."

The therapy pool, too, gives another option for exercise, as well as being a tool for physical therapy, rehab, and sports training and conditioning. It comes with a lift that can move disabled clients in and out of the water.

"The water is 92 degrees and people love it," Ommen said. "People can swim against the current, and it can be set so strong that they get a great workout."

The pool can be used by anyone -- even non-members at a minimal cost -- though Ommen recommended that a person call ahead to sign up for an open time. Anyone younger than 12 needs a parent with them when in the water.

Since the center is part of the Osceola Community Hospital, an emphasis on overall health and well-being is seen everywhere -- even in the cheery "refreshment area" where people can chat while drinking coffee or using the Wi-Fi. There is a massage therapy room that doubles as a teaching space for nutrition counseling, hearing screenings and pediatric physical therapy. There are two saunas available, clean and easily-accessed locker rooms, and screened-off physical therapy cubicles.

"It was a community-wide effort," explained Becky Krogman, head of the hospital's foundation marketing office. "Back in 2005 a need was seen -- not for another gym in town, but for a wellness center, a place where people of all ages could come and promote good health."

What came of those initial meetings is a facility for Osceola County and its surrounding communities.

"We have been very pleased," said Janet Dykstra, hospital administrator. "We built the Wellness Center looking toward preventative health and rehab. ... It's been a good system and program for us."

"Everyone feels comfortable here," added Schroeder. "It's a very positive thing."

The Osceola Community Wellness and Rehab Center is located within the Osceola Community Hospital at 600 Ninth Ave. N., Sibley. Visit for more information.