Fitness centre CEO reflects on participation in the Wellness Transformation Network

It’s hard to believe that less than 50 years ago, most physicians discouraged exercise for patients recovering from heart surgery. Bed rest was recommended. Exercise could be dangerous, went the conventional wisdom of the day. Oh, how the times have changed.

Sue Boreskie: “Our work with SciMar and the WTN is absolutely consistent with our desire to find new solutions and new ways to improve health and well-being.”

The Reh-Fit Centre opened its doors in 1979 on Taylor Avenue in Winnipeg with renowned cardiologist Dr. David Mymin serving as its first Medical Director. He believed—and could demonstrate empirically and anecdotally—that cardiac patients were much better off with exercise than without.

“In those days exercise was not the key focus for rehabilitation,” says Sue Boreskie, Chief Executive Officer of the Reh-Fit Centre. “But Dr. Mymin and some others intuitively knew that it didn’t make sense to have people being sedentary for weeks on end after a heart incident. And they set out to prove it.”

As a master’s student in exercise physiology and as an employee of the Reh-Fit Centre in the early 1980s, Boreskie had a front-row seat to the evolution of a new paradigm in cardiac care. Today, as CEO of the first organization to join SciMar’s Wellness Transformation Network (WTN), she enjoys a front-row seat to the evolution of a new paradigm in diabetes detection, prevention, and management.

“The innovative thinking that sparked the new approach to exercise absolutely shaped my career and my excitement for innovation in health and fitness,” says Borsekie, a former competitive swimmer and a current Board member with the Canada Games Council. “That is why I am so excited about SciMar and about the Reh-Fit Centre being part of the Wellness Transformation Network.”

As a WTN member, the Reh-Fit Centre will host and coordinate wellness interventions that allow SciMar to measure the participants’ nutrient partitioning and their production of hepatic insulin-sensitizing substance (HISS). The science behind nutrient partitioning and HISS is what is driving SciMar’s groundbreaking research into type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Boreskie promotes healthy eating and exercise, but recognizes that for many people prioritizing those things is easier said than done. For those people especially, SciMar’s research and products could have an important role to play.

“There are the realities of life, like if someone has multiple children and they are taking care of an elderly mother. Life can get complicated,” says Boreskie. “Exercise is not their primary focus right now, right? So our involvement in the Wellness Transformation Network could be very helpful in supporting people like that in other ways.”

The Reh-Fit Centre has its roots in Dr. Mymin’s 25-square-foot lab at St. Boniface Hospital in 1975. One treadmill and a waiting list to use it. Today, the Reh-Fit Centre is a sparkling 86,000-square foot building, certified as Canada’s first medical fitness facility, and a hub of health and wellness innovation for thousands of Winnipeggers of all ages.

“Diet and exercise are part of the picture, and we’re also doing important work in the areas of sleep and how people can stick with good habits,” says Boreskie. “Our work with SciMar and the WTN is absolutely consistent with our desire to find new solutions and new ways to improve health and well-being. We’re excited!”