Thrive by IU Health

December 11, 2023

IU Health Fresh & Fit program empowers healthier lifestyles

IU Health Saxony Hospital

IU Health Fresh & Fit program empowers healthier lifestyles

By Emma Avila,, writer for IU Health’s Indianapolis Suburban Region

IU Health's Fresh & Fit program, a 10-week health initiative focusing on exercise and nutrition, has profoundly transformed participant Robin Sawyer's life.

When Robin Sawyer first heard about the IU Health Fresh & Fit program, she thought it was too good to be true. She saw a post on Facebook advertising the 10-week free program to help improve participants’ health through exercise and nutrition and thought it couldn’t be real. Little did she know that program would drastically change her health and her life.

“I was hesitant until I saw it was actually through IU Health,” she explains. “Then I was really excited about it because I was looking for a good program.”

Fresh & Fit is a free virtual 10-week program designed to help participants get moving, eat healthy and improve their well-being. IU Health North, Saxony, Tipton and West hospitals designed a program that combines exciting workouts, nutrition, health screenings and consistent motivation that result in healthy lifestyle changes.

Caitlin Vendely, a Community Outreach consultant for IU Health’s Indianapolis Suburban Region, is on the team overseeing the program.

Caitlin Vendely

“When selecting participants, we look for in-need and underserved individuals who are interested in improving their health,” she says. “Applicants must indicate their willingness to fully commit to 10 weeks of fitness classes, a nutrition plan and two health screenings. As a part of the application process, they must answer questions about their health, specifically regarding cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and weight as well as questions regarding household size and income to ensure that we reach community members who may not otherwise have the means to participate in a fitness and nutrition program.”

Sawyer, a Fishers resident, met the criteria and was accepted into the program.

To start, participants met at one of the hospitals near their home and went through their first health screening. The team noted their starting weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, HDL, LDL, glucose and A1C baseline numbers to track each person’s progress.

“The Community Outreach team also provides equipment at the beginning of the program to set participants up for success,” Vendely adds. “Each participant receives an at-home blood pressure monitor, a set of exercise resistance bands and a participant packet with helpful information regarding the program and nutrition plan.”

From there, participants can download an app to engage with the program or they can choose to use the app’s desktop version.

Sawyer used the app to do her virtual workouts and follow the nutrition plan.

“The app gives you so much information, it’s unbelievable,” she says. “It gives you recipes and all kinds of diet info. You have to check in every single day, and it gives you a short lesson. You also have to check in if you’ve done that day’s work out or not.”

For the daily workouts, educational lessons and nutritional questions, IU Health partners with R3 Fitness. This is the fifth year IU Health has offered Fresh & Fit.

For Sawyer, she felt the program was set up to meet everyone where they were at. She had never consistently worked out before Fresh & Fit and was glad the program took that into consideration.

“I was starting from zero. They give you so many modifications because many people, including myself, may not have been working out,” she says.

And she isn’t alone.

“Many Fresh & Fit participants have never stepped foot in a gym nor monitored their nutrition before beginning the program. A large quantity of these individuals are also on medications to monitor their blood pressure, cholesterol and other health conditions,” Vendely says.

Sawyer hoped the program would improve her overall health, with a special focus on her cholesterol. She was determined to give the program her all. Within the 10 weeks, she completed every required workout and stuck to her nutrition plan.

Her results reflect her commitment.

“I gave it my everything and at the end, I lost 24 pounds and my cholesterol went down 80 points,” she says. “I’m just so incredibly genuinely impressed with my weight loss and the magnitude of change in my blood levels in such a short period of time.”

And she isn’t planning to stop now that the program is over. She feels the lessons she learned along the way will help make her lifestyle changes sustainable.

In fact, many participants feel the same way.

“One hundred percent of Hamilton County’s participants who completed the post-program survey state that they will continue to follow both a fitness and nutrition regimen after program completion,” Vendely adds. “Part of IU Health’s mission is to create strong and healthy communities across the state. Fresh & Fit does exactly that by impacting the lives of hundreds of community members in-need by helping them build healthy lifestyles that can be maintained for the long-term.”

Now, Sawyer hopes to encourage others to focus on their health as well.

“Health is just so important, and many people put it off like I did. This really got me back on track.”

To learn more about the Fresh & Fit program, click here. Community members will be able to submit applications for the program starting January 15. The program is currently not open to IU Health team members and their immediate families.