Accessible Gyms Come of Age


If you want to pump some iron while maneuvering around with ease, there is good news: As more people living with disabilities strive to maintain healthy, active lifestyles, truly accessible gyms have started cropping up in major urban areas.

To get a better feel for what’s out there, we’ve delved into two new, unique workout centers that offer a lengthy list of accessible equipment and programs, and may serve as role models for future fitness facilities.  These centers are so customized that they could bump Northridge, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz., into the top tier of America’s disability-friendly cities.

A C.O.R.E. Workout
The Center of Restorative Exercise (C.O.R.E.) in Northridge, Calif., takes a progressive look at health, with an eye toward preventing many of the secondary complications that can come with spinal cord injuries.  Co-founded earlier this year by mother and son duo, Laquita Conway and Aaron Baker, C.O.R.E. focuses on providing accessible, restorative exercise.  Taylor-Kevin Isaacs, a Clinical Exercise Physiologist/Kinesiologist and strength and conditioning specialist, is the other co-founder and partner.

After Baker was paralyzed in a motocross racing accident in May 1999, he and his mother worked together to maximize his physical potential and overall recovery through Isaacs’ Applied Kinesiology and Restorative Exercise Training System.  “Building upon the flicker of a toe, to the contraction of multiple muscles, Aaron’s recovery continues to evolve to this day,” Conway says.  The benefits of consistent restorative exercise have given Baker, a C4-6 quad, the means to achieve numerous awards in cycling marathons and other events.  “I’ve made my health and recovery the No. 1 priority in my life,” Baker says.

C.O.R.E. uses Baker’s experience to bring the power of a structured program to hundreds – and potentially thousands – of other Los Angeles-area wheelchair users.  The high-tech facility operates on the premise that secondary complications and degenerative changes may be prevented or significantly reduced if exercise becomes part of a daily routine.

At C.O.R.E. you’ll find specialized adaptive equipment by Cybex Total Access, NuStep and HydroGym, thoughtfully arranged for easy access.  Some of the Cybex Total Access equipment has swing-away seats, so you can roll your chair right up to the machine and choose the height of the handles and weight that works for you.  The NuStep equipment, meanwhile, has adaptive accessories that stabilize your legs, your feet secure.  Need to lift some free weights?  C.O.R.E. has you covered with adaptive gloves to help grip the weights and properly flex.

Striking red, black and chrome accents and a bold design give C.O.R.E. the edge and visual sophistication to get you moving, and the staff strives to create a close and supportive environment.  Each restorative exercise specialist takes a 20-week training course and final comprehensive exam so he or she can provide the best advice in achieving individual fitness goals.  As Chris Voelker, C6-7 and a C.O.R.E. member, says, “The staff is really helpful and makes each visit full of encouragement.  You don’t feel like a number at a giant fitness gym.  Joining the C.O.R.E. gym is the single healthiest thing I have done for my body since being paralyzed so many years ago.”

Keep your eye on C.O.R.E. in the future.  “We are setting C.O.R.E. centers up as a franchise, with the goal of becoming an empowering, enduring presence statewide, nationwide and ultimately globally," says Conway.