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News SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital’s NExT wellness program surpasses 1,500 classes

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital’s NExT wellness program surpasses 1,500 classes


​NExT offers simple and practical tips and tools for nutrition and exercise, 

impacting thousands of Southern Illinois residents since beginning in 2010

Centralia, IL (June 28, 2016) — The Nutrition Exercise Training Program (NExT), offered by SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Centralia in conjunction with Felician Services, recently kicked off another session … one that included a special milestone. Since launching in 2010, the NExT program has now held more than 1,500 two-hour classes.

Offered in the Felician Wellness Center at the Centralia Recreation Complex, each two-hour class includes an education component, an activity, an exercise period, and a time for participants to meet with the instructors in one-on-one settings. There are also opportunities to network with and learn from other class participants.

“We’re proud that we’ve been able to offer the NExT program to thousands of Southern Illinois residents over the past six years and, during that time, have taught more than 1,500 classes,” said Brent Swartzlander, SSM Health Felician Wellness Manager. “While the NExT program will help participants lose weight, that’s not our primary focus. Instead, we strive to promote behavior changes by offering resources and knowledge to help participants meet their personal goals for health and wellness.”

image of linda knolhoff of next ProgramThe program emphasizes exercise and portion control as a means of weight loss and management. Classes are offered twice a week in the morning, afternoon and evening for six weeks, with a new session starting every two months. Classes are led by certified wellness coaches, including SSM Health instructor Linda Knolhoff (pictured right) and former Centralia high school football coach Dick Carpenter. 

“Above all, we want the NExT program to be fun, entertaining, and informative for our participants,” said Knolhoff. “I want people to understand that wellness is not a destination … it’s a lifestyle. We’re all about providing the knowledge and tools to make a lifestyle change and giving them the confidence that they can do this by helping take aware any fears.”

Centralia resident Cheryle Ferguson, 61, can vouch for the benefits of the NExT program. Since beginning the program in January, Ferguson has lost more than 60 pounds, been able to stop taking insulin and blood pressure medication, and no longer needs her walker to get around. In fact, she now walks more than a mile every day without the aid of her walker – something that was unforeseeable less than six months ago.

“Not only am I able to get around much better than before, but I’m eating better and healthier foods and practicing portion control,” Ferguson said. “I’m a believer in the NExT program. It’s really changed by lifestyle and improved my overall health and wellness.”

Terra Venters (pictured left), 43, of Odin, Ill., is a NExT program proponent as well. Since beginning the program, Venters has seen a dramatic improvement in her mobility and endurance. When first starting, she was barely able to pedal a bike machine. After one six-week session, she’s “mastered” the bike machine and “graduated” to an elliptical bike that she can ride for several minutes at a time. The program has also helped her stamina, enabling her to mow her entire yard with a push mower, and introduced her to exercises that she can do on the job at her workstation to strengthen muscles and reduce stiffness.

Venters also lauds the nutrition and education component of NExT.

“The program has completely changed the way I look at food,” she says. “I don’t crave sweets anymore, and I’ve learned how to shop for healthier foods. In fact, now when I consider going out to get something to eat, nothing sounds good anymore. So my husband and I are eating more at home these days.

“It’s an amazing program, and it only takes a little bit of time,” Venters added. “My clothes fit better and I haven’t felt this good since I was in my 20s.”

The program costs $30 and financial assistance is available. When completing the six-week class, participants will receive 50 percent off of a six-month individual pass to the Centralia Recreation Complex to continue to exercise and meet their goals.

For more information or to register for an upcoming class, call 618-532-6427.