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Northbrook fitness studio caters to seniors with medical conditions

Keep the Beat Wellness is a fitness studio with a niche: seniors who have a medical condition.

Walking into Northbrook's Keep The Beat Wellness is a very different experience than walking into most other fitness clubs or workout facilities.

Instead of swiping a member's card at the door, owner Stuart Thilmany takes the blood pressure and pulse of every one of his clients.

"I really care about the people who come in here," said Thilmany, who is an exercise physiologist "I care that they are here, that they are safe, and that they progress to their potential."

Keep The Beat Wellness, which is celebrating six years in business next month, is a fitness studio with a niche: seniors with medical conditions.

Thilmany, who spent 26 years working in the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation department at Rush NorthShore Medical Center said he came up with the idea for his studio several years ago, when a few hospital-based phase-four cardiac rehabilitation facilities closed due to high costs and no profitability.

"Phase-four programs were for people with conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, pulmonary disease, or obesity who didn't want to be thrown into a large gym where they'd get lost and possibly injured," he said. "When the facilities closed, I felt like there was no place for people who need that special attention to go."

Keep The Beat Wellness is geared toward men and women, ages 50 and older, many of whom had heart attacks or heart surgery.

"I'm here all the time, answering questions, updating and changing their exercise routines, and teaching them how to use weights properly to avoid injury," said Thilmany, who holds a master's degree in exercise physiology. "And if something should happen, I know what to do."

Thilmany also offers one-on-one personal training sessions, as well as fitness classes taught by contracted instructors. They include gentle yoga, mat yoga, total body, and mini-boot camp, all of which include modification options.

Pat Moorhead of Deerfield was referred to Keep The Beat Wellness two years ago by the staff at Highland Park Hospital, where he was treated for a heart attack.

"Before the heart attack, I was unfit," said 72-year-old Moorhead. "I didn't eat well, I never worked out, and it took a wake-up call to shake me a bit."

Moorhead, who after his heart attack lost 35 pounds and has kept it off, said he works out at Keep The Beat Wellness three times per week.

"As you're working out, he pays attention," said Moorhead of Thilmany. "He'll give tips and suggestions for form to prevent injury, and give you the most you can get out of the workout."

"I took a boot camp class there and I couldn't believe how good it was," said Michelle Newlin of Evanston, who is now a regular at the studio. "Stuart has such an understanding of tailoring his programs to fit individuals. He focuses on core and strength and does it in a way that's very targeted."

Thilmany said his studio has approximately 70 members, the oldest, age 95.

"If they're willing to put the work into their body, stay active, and eat right, there's no reason an older person can't have a great life," he said.

"Stuart knows each client very well and understands their needs. " Moorhead said. "The workouts are individualized, almost like having your own personal trainer. It's the best kept secret on the North Shore."

Keep The Beat Wellness is located at 333 Skokie Boulevard in Suite 106. For more information, call (847) 559-1992 or visit KeepTheBeatWellness.org.

Jackie Pilossoph is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press. Twitter: @lovesssentially.

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