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Going the extra mile, fitness center staff helps couple succeed

If the Aging Partners Health and Fitness Center did then-and-now photos of its clients, snapshots of Steve and Janis Bernt might be a good place to start.

When the couple first arrived at 233 S. Tenth St. six months ago, each brought a lot of medical baggage.

Steve, a tire-change specialist in Columbus, Nebraska back in the years when he was able to work, went on disability in 2001 for a lower back fusion. Five years ago, he was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). He also has a bad shoulder, and has been on medication for his diabetes.

He tipped the scales at 242 pounds when the Aging Partners staff started to work with the 61-year-old Lincoln man last July.

Janis Bernt, disabled since 2003, has had her own medical issues to deal with, including neck and lower back pain, mental illness, and severe migraine headaches.

Driven by results

It wasn’t long before the Bernts started to see results – and the Aging Partners Health & Fitness Center staff started to see more of the Bernts. Four times each week, they leave their cottage at the Tabitha Independence Living Center and catch a StarTran Handi-Bus for the trip downtown to the fitness center.

The regulars at the center share a common goal: to add years to their life and life to their years.

Fitness Center staff put Steve Bernt on a safe, effective schedule that has shed 62 pounds and resulted in the lower-back pain subsiding. He’s been able to kick the diabetes medication schedule, and doctors are now discussing the possibility of removing the C-pap machine he uses at night. His progress became so dramatic that staff members and center regulars honored his progress with a trophy and certificate.

Progress in the Bernt household became more significant when the Aging Partners hooked up the couple with a meal plan that included no sugar and severely limited carb intake. The couple also watched portion sizes.

When the Bernts hit the scales, the proof was in the pudding – and other sugary desserts that the couple gave up. Leafy vegetables and fruit servings took their place.

“Steve has lost sixty pounds and I’ve lost twenty,” said Janis, whose workout routine includes the Bowflex, other weight machines and free weights.

Her husband’s workouts avoid upper-body lifting, in deference to his shoulder problems. Staff members’ breathing techniques have helped him cope better with his COPD.

Thanking the staff

Grateful for the strides they’ve made and seeing progress in other clients, the Bernts approached the fitness center’s other regulars about buying a plaque to thank staff workers for their willingness to go above and beyond.

“They’re encouraging without being pushy,” Steve said during the presentation last week.

“There are fitness places that are closer to where we live, but none whose staff cares about their clients more than these people do,” Janis added.

And, the Bernts add, you can’t beat the price: A monthly fee of $10 is encouraged, but not required, for clients over age 60.


The fifth annual recycle holiday lights drive generated a record-high 11,750 pounds of lights and netted $4,112.50 for the Eastridge PTO. Scrap Central Inc., the recycling partner in the community effort gave the Eastridge Elementary PTO 35 cents per pound for recycled lights.