Pine Forge campers transform physically, mentally and spiritually at health retreat

Fit 4 You campers take a fitness class during a two-week retreat at the Pine Forge Academy. Each day at the camp began and ended with exercise. (Photo submitted by Robert Booker)
Lynee Morgan, left, gets instruction from Ronda Davis, right, on how to do the sit and reach flexibility test for the hamstrings muscles and lower back. (Photo submitted by Robert Booker)

About Fit for Life

The Mercury is engaged in a year-long effort, Fit for Life, designed to promote healthy living and inspired by recent health studies which indicate an alarming increase in obesity and overweight people. In addition to articles in the newspaper and on our website, Fit for Life features a blog with recipes, health tips, resources, tips on getting fit without breaking the bank, maps and other tools all available free online. Visit the website at www.pottsmerc.com/Fitforlife, like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MercFit4Life and follow our efforts on Twitter @MercFit4Life.

You can follow Michilea Patterson on Twitter @MichileaP. Patterson is the Fit for Life reporter and is funded in part by the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation.

Campers and staff came from all over the nation and even outside the country to participate in a spiritual, healthy living program.

The Fit 4 You Retreat is an adult camp that happens every summer at the Pine Forge Academy. The Allegheny East Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church sponsors and supports the healthy living retreat.

“The real heart of the program is the spirit of the living God,” said Rhonda Rose, one of the retreat’s fitness instructors.

“We promote health from a biblical standpoint,” she said. “We believe that our bodies are the holy temple of God.”

Rose lives in Korea but continues to travel to Pine Forge every year to participate in the annual retreat. She said the program started over 30 years ago.

The retreat is a two-week camp that incorporates God, nutrition and fitness in its daily activities.

It starts with campers getting blood work and a body assessment, said Leah Scott, the health ministry director of the Allegheny East Conference and of the Columbia Union Conference. She said campers take the same tests at the end of the two weeks to compare their progress.

“It’s amazing what happens,” Scott said.

She said the purpose of the camp is for people to become healthier and to decrease disparities.

“We need to improve the health of the community and reduce healthcare costs,” Scott said.

She said campers of all ages and in all different conditions attend the retreat each year.

Morton Williams, 68, of Bermuda started attending the retreat two years ago. Williams is a former marathon runner and had joint pain before attending the camp, he said. Williams said his pain is now gone and that the retreat keeps him energized.

He also said the retreat’s messages about God keeps him rejuvenated.

“He enables us and gives us the power and strength,” he said.

Scott said the basis of the church is about taking care of your bodies and that the retreat incorporates that in its program.

“Health is physical, mental and spiritual,” she said.

For the physical, fitness coordinator Faye Gregory said the retreat begins with assessments for crunches, push-ups and the sit and reach. Campers took aerobic classes for two weeks and began each morning with a two to three mile walk, she said.

“After the retreat, they (the campers) feel more confident in themselves,” she said.

Gregory said Fit 4 You is a wonderful experience and she enjoys helping others achieve a healthier lifestyle.

First time retreat camper, Indra Osi of New Orleans, said she has health concerns and knew she needed to change.

“My first impression is how organized and comprehensive it (the camp) is,” Osi said.

She said she was impressed how each day’s schedule is designed to help campers “build healthier lifestyles.”

Osi said she enjoyed the retreat lectures the most.

“It helped us understand that how we eat and what we eat can affect our bodies,” she said.

Osi said she noticed that camp meals had no butter, very little salt and herbs were added to the food for flavor.

She said the retreat not only provides nutritious meals but also teaches campers how to sustain such a diet when they return home. Campers receive a cookbook featuring recipes they enjoyed while at the retreat, Osi said.

To also help campers sustain a healthy lifestyle, Osi said campers joined support teams that will meet on a monthly basis to encourage one another.

She said hearing the success stories of returning campers helped motivate her.

“I say to myself that if they can do it then I can do it,” Osi said.

Theresa Jones, 60, of Abington has lost 40 pounds since she started attending the retreat.

She said she used to weigh 204 pounds and had high blood pressure. Jones said the camp helped give her a new start and she returns every year to stay motivated.

A married couple of 37 years brought one another as a motivational tool and to help each other stay encouraged when they go home.

Tyrone and Regenia Simmons of Detroit, attended the retreat for the first time this year.

Regenia said she’s happy to have experienced the retreat with her husband because now they can return to Detroit and practice together what they learned.

“It’s really a treasured experience,” Regenia said.

Tyrone said he notices the difference in his health, even after just two weeks.

“Physically I feel a lot better,” he said.

The Simmons lost a total of 19 pounds while at this year’s retreat.

“It’s one of the best kept secrets in the country,” Regenia said.

Registration for next year’s retreat will begin in November, Scott said.

Registration cost about $950 and includes meals, lodging, and seminars. The retreat is every summer at the academy which is located at 299 Pine Forge Road. For more information about the retreat, visit www.fit4youretreat.org/about.html.