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Gunnison Valley Health Supports Heart and Lung Health with Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation

Gunnison Valley Health’s cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program is designed for cardiovascular and pulmonary patients recovering from a cardiac or pulmonary event. The program builds around the patient’s whole health and lifestyle to get the heart and lungs working properly again.

The goal of the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program is to use exercise as medicine while focusing on overall wellness, not just physical fitness. Since the program is a part of the health system, the specialists can connect patients with a dietitian or mental health professional as needed.

The program primarily uses aerobic exercises to help bring patients to their best possible physical fitness, but the specialist will also utilize balance exercises, range of motion exercises and resistance training. The specialist works to tailor every exercise program to each patient’s individual needs, with an end goal of the patient making lifestyle changes, rather than temporary changes.

The cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program has three phases. Phase one will generally be inpatient at the facility where the patient either had surgery or a cardiovascular event. Phase one focuses on making sure you are stable and ready to be discharged. This can include prescribing exercises to improve mobility and helping address any safety concerns following an event and educating the patient and family about any future risks.

Phase two is a monitoring phase – and takes place in an outpatient setting at Gunnison Valley Health. This phase includes monitoring the way your body responds to activity in order to create an exercise plan for optimal recovery. This phase focuses on returning to your normal lifestyle while maintaining safe heart and lung levels. Once the patient has completed phase two, they will move to phase three.

For patients in the Gunnison Valley phase three is completed in partnership with Western Colorado University. Their program Wellness Elevated, is run by interns at WCU. These interns work to create specialized exercise prescriptions for each individual patient. These prescriptions are overseen by a cardiopulmonary physician. The goal of phase three is to create long lasting lifestyle habits that are safe for each individual patient. The goal of phase three is to maintain optimal health while returning to your normal lifestyle.

Gunnison Valley Health’s cardiopulmonary exercise specialist is Geoff Churley who has been involved with the program for several years, beginning as an intern.

Geoff received his bachelors in Exercise and Sports Science from Western Colorado University. He will complete his masters in High Altitude Exercise Physiology in May of this year.

Geoff enjoys the Gunnison Valley and moved here before attending WCU. Geoff recognized the role physical activity played in mental health, especially living in the Gunnison Valley. Geoff wanted to further understand how exercise can help people similarly to how it helped himself. The degree field at WCU as well as the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation field seemed like a natural fit, and Geoff is excited to continue to provide care to the patients in Gunnison.

“I am excited that we can offer these services in Gunnison,” said Geoff. “Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation was offered but very limited due to the contractual restrictions. A full-time employee allows for much easier scheduling options. This allows us to keep patients local – and I love that we are able to do that.”