iVets Program Helping Vets stay Fit, Active

Free tablet computer teaches, tracks exercise
Posted at 7:01 PM, Nov 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-02 19:01:20-04

The VA Maryland Health Care System says it is noticing progress in patients being treated with physical therapy thanks to a new program. 'iVETS' targets veterans who may have trouble keeping up with their prescribed exercise plans.

According to a recent study, almost a quarter of veterans live in rural areas. Many others live with disability. Both factors can make treating veterans harder.

"Finding transportation is very difficult," said Charlene Hafer-Macko, co-founder of the iVets program, "You're reliant on others to get you here or mobility."

iVETS stands for 'Interactive Video Exercise Tele-Rehabilitation.' Participants are issued a free tablet computer that instructs veterans how to properly perform the exercise program specifically tailored to their needs. Following along is as easy as watching a YouTube video.

When the vets are able to return to their Physical Therapist, the tablet records how many times he or she logged in. 

"You don't pay attention to your own health at all when you serve," said Army veteran Virginia Chapko, "You pay attention to the duty, the performance, the job and the mission."

Chapko said that following her retirement, she didn't exercise as much as she should have. Her iVETS tablet makes it easier.

"I have it on my stand and it's my personal trainer," she said, "It shows me exactly what I need to do, how I need to do it."

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Some veterans being treated at VA Maryland Health are in much more critical situations. Veteran Franklin Gregg recently survived a stroke. Now, it is crucial for him to perform daily exercises to maintain his range of movement and muscle strength. He has been using his tablet to perform a variety of exercises at home.

"You've got the side step, the squat, the sit and stand," Gregg said.

Physical therapists say they are noticing progress since iVETS' introduction earlier this year.

"That's one of the most rewarding things about it," says therapist Alyssa Stookie. "You're actually able to see people improving. Improving their health, improving their quality of life, improving their outlook on just life in general."

For more information on the iVETS program, contact the Maryland VA Health System.

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