Working It Out 6

Becoming Your Best in 2019

“New year, new you” sounds so easy: Just join a gym and get fit, right? Not so fast. For many, walking into a health club for the first time or trying to get back on track after surgery, an illness or taking a few years off can be intimidating, which is why picking the right place that feels both personalized and welcoming becomes essential. Valley Health LifeStyles, part of the Valley Center for Health and Wellness in Mahwah, checks off many boxes for those who want to get in shape, maintain a healthy lifestyle and work to strengthen both body and mind.

“We call it the ‘Medical Fitness Difference,’” says Executive Director Robert Angner. “All of our programs are personalized and overseen and monitored by our medical director and medical advisory panel. We use exercise as medicine to prevent chronic disease and to treat illnesses. And with a fitness center and staff that’s second to none, we are truly a health and fitness center here to serve all,” he says.

The Facility

Opened a year ago, the Valley Center for Health and Wellness is a 75,000-square-foot facility with the two-story LifeStyles fitness center taking up half the space. Included in the center are two rooms for classes such as Boot Camp, Yoga, Spin and Zumba; four pools including a warm-water therapy pool, a six-lane lap pool, a group exercise pool and a whirlpool. A rock-climbing wall and top-notch exercise equipment are all on the main fitness floor, with an adjacent three-hoop basketball court. The second floor includes a running track and free weights. All members receive a comprehensive physical fitness assessment with an exercise specialist who then sets up an exercise prescription plan which would include specifics such as optimum heart rate during workouts, the best routine to meet fitness goals and even such details as to how high the seat should be on a machine to avoid strain.

“We make sure that exercise plans are tailored to our clients down to the smallest detail,” Robert says.

And as the seasons change, so can the exercise regimen.

“While I may want one routine to help me prepare for the ski season, when spring is around the corner, they’ll reassess me and switch it up to get prepared for golf,” he says.

The average member is in his or her mid-40s, half have a chronic disease (diabetes, heart disease, emphysema, for example) and half are brand-new to a gym.

“We really are the perfect choice for both types of members as well as seasoned gym goers,” Robert says. “With our staff certified with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and some with master’s degrees in exercise science or physiology, we are here to help both beginners and fitness enthusiasts alike.”

And as statistics show that only 15 percent of the population currently belongs to a health club, where does LifeStyles fit in?

“We like to say we serve the other 85 percent,” Robert says. “We take the time to get to know each client and make sure they are comfortable with their exercise program. That’s what sets us apart.”

And for those who have recently had surgery and are in need of physical therapy, they can seamlessly go from receiving therapy sessions on tables adjoining the fitness floor to working on the machines when they are cleared and ready.

“The continuum of care means we make sure you’re familiar with both the equipment and more importantly our staff who are trained to help in the transition,” Robert says. “And because we’re part of the Valley Health System, we have hospital levels of cleanliness and maintenance.”

Health Care Hub

Along with the fitness facility, the Valley Center for Health and Wellness is a large-scale health care hub, which includes a pharmacy, a walk-in health clinic, physical therapy services and an imaging center.

“If you come in with say, an ear infection, you can go to the walk-in clinic, get diagnosed then head to the pharmacy on site to get your prescription filled,” Robert says.

An injury can also be assessed at the imaging center upstairs with an X-ray or scan. Wellness education is also an important part of their program, and LifeStyles frequently offers free seminars, including flu clinics, blood pressure and cardiac screenings and classes on health issues such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

The KidStyles youth fitness program is available for children ages 5 to 12 as part of the family membership plan and includes such supervised activities as circuit training, rock wall climbing, group games and free play. Childcare for younger kids is provided for a nominal fee for members as well as those using the rest of the facilities. For additional convenience, especially welcome during winter months or rainy days, underground parking is available.

What differentiates LifeStyles from other fitness facilities isn’t just the equipment or programs offered, though they are excellent, Robert says.

“We like to say it’s not just the hardware, it’s the software; it’s our staff who provides amazing individualized attention,” he says.

And the response has been amazing.

“A client came up to me recently and said coming to LifeStyles has really made a positive difference in her life,” he says. “She said, ‘I’m here every day because of the way I feel when I’m here. Everybody makes me feel so welcome. I never dreamed I would feel this good.’ I know we’re changing lives for the better, we care about our clients’ overall wellness and that benefits everybody.”


Flexibility at Any Age

Maintaining flexibility is essential to exercising to the best of your potential and to avoid injury, says Lara Vajas, manager of Medical Fitness at Valley Health LifeStyles. Flexibility can deteriorate quickly as we age, especially combined with a sedentary lifestyle. A lack of flexibility makes normal daily activities more difficult, leading to reduced mobility over time. Here are some tips from Lara on stretching effectively and for good health.

  • Focused stretching exercises should be done two to three times a week to improve flexibility but is proven most effective when done daily or after each training session.
  • Stretching should involve all major muscle groups such as chest, back, and the anterior and posterior muscles of the lower body.
  • Each stretch should be performed two to four times and held for 30 to 60 seconds to slight discomfort but not pain. Stretches should be static or held in place, and bouncing-type movements should be avoided.
  • Stretching exercises are most effective when the muscles are warm; thus it is recommended to stretch after an exercise session.
  • In addition, activities such as yoga and tai chi can help improve and/or maintain flexibility.


1400 MacArthur Blvd., Mahwah, 201.389.0839,