HealthSteps program halted after decades

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LEWISTON — St. Mary’s Health System’s popular HealthSteps program will end Dec. 31.

Participants got the news abruptly on Friday.

“Today, we’re getting ready to leave and they say, ‘No more HealthSteps,'” said Dick Houle who has run three mornings a week through the program for the past 15 years. “That’s a big shock.”

St. Mary’s spokeswoman Jennifer Radel said some programs ended Friday. Others will continue until the end of the month. The program offered yoga, track, aquatic fitness, toning, racquetball and other programs in several sessions per year. Many of the core offerings were at Bates College’s Merrill Gymnasium.

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“We enjoyed doing it for many years,” Radel said. “The program began, I believe, in the early ’80s, and we loved offering this service to the community, but there are other places where folks can enjoy these types of services. There’s lots of yoga classes and swimming classes offered in other areas.”

She said the plan is to focus on other areas within Prevention & Wellness Services. The move means the loss of one part-time position.

In 2014, 351 people participated in HealthSteps. Declining enrollment was a factor, she said.

Houle said he didn’t believe the closure made sense since the hospital promotes staying active and fit, and he hoped they would reconsider. The program is full of retirees like him.

“There’s one guy in his 80s,” Houle said. “He walks just about every day out there on the track, and I’m not talking about leisurely walking, either. You got a bunch of people like that who are regulars, you break that up, psychologically, that’s going to be a big hit.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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