You can find just about every kind of exercise imaginable in Northern Virginia, from CrossFit to a relaxing yoga class. But the typical gym is not always a place that works for everyone. That can be especially true if you have a developmental issue or a serious injury. One place looking to serve those individuals is the Ability Fitness Center, a new gym and therapy center from Arc of Loudoun and Ability Fitness.
The Ability Fitness Center began operating in September 2017, moving into its official home on the Arc of Loudoun campus in February, with its grand opening in April. The center is run by Clinical Director Helen Parker, who has been working as a neurological physical therapist for the past 21 years. Those attempting to rehab neurological or spinal cord issues are her main clientele, but as part of the center’s relationship with Arc of Loudoun, the gym also serves as a resource for students of the Aurora School.
Aurora is an educational community for school age children (6-22) with special needs. Parker and her staff help with those needs by allowing the students to come over at any point of the school day with their therapists and get in a workout.
“We’ve got therapy balls, weights, the stairs, bike, elliptical, treadmill, all sorts of things like that,” says Parker. “It’s really trying to get them moving, burning some calories, working on their coordination, balance and posture.”
But the center is not only open to kids from the Aurora School. While most of those who have used the facility thus far are adults—many of the machines are designed for full-grown adults—Parker is welcoming to children from the community who could benefit from Ability Fitness Center’s offerings.
As the center continues to grow, Parker hopes to acquire equipment that can be used by children, as well as hire additional staff to stay open evenings and weekends, times more conducive to a child’s typical schedule.
“The biggest thing is we want to grow. We want people to know our name so that if they need us they can find us,” says Parker. “[To have] a safe environment, an inclusive environment, so that people regardless of their diagnosis can get the benefits of exercise. Because we all know what exercise does for you emotionally and physically, and not everyone is able to get it.” // abilityfitnesscenter.org