By Jason Friesen

The Reh-Fit Centre has a unique history, and the month of February is at the centre of that story…or should we say ‘at the heart’ of the story.

February is heart month, when there is an increased focus world-wide on heart health. At the Reh-Fit Centre in particular, it’s when we annually celebrate Smart for Your Heart month with additional education talks and events centered on heart health. 

That focus on heart health is of course how the Reh-Fit Centre began. And though the origins of Reh-Fit started in the early 1970’s at St. Boniface Hospital and the University of Manitoba, the Centre is celebrating its 45th anniversary since moving to Taylor Avenue this year.

Much has changed since 1979, but some things have remained consistent. Reh-Fit still puts a heavy focus on heart health despite offering much more than that now. Many members have come and gone in the last 45 years too, but one has been with Reh-Fit since the development of 1390 Taylor Avenue.

Werner Wiebe is the last active Founding Member of the Reh-Fit Centre that still attends regularly. His Reh-Fit journey started just prior to the move to the current site.

“I had a heart attack in 1978 and was in St. Boniface Hospital,” Wiebe recalled. “Dr. David Mymin had talked about the program and suggested that I get involved.”

Dr. Mymin (1929-2021) was a cardiologist and passionate proponent of the ‘exercise is medicine’ movement in the early 1970s. It was his leadership that initially started the Reh-Fit Centre in a 250-square foot stress test lab in St. Boniface Hospital, and he was the first Medical Director of the facility when the current site was established.

“At that point, most doctors didn’t believe in exercise after having heart problems, but Dr. Mymin was quite in favour of it,” noted Wiebe. “After I got out of hospital, I started going to the university, and there were lots of other people there at that point. The program had been going for a few years already.”

Wiebe hasn’t stopped ever since, and exercise truly has been medicine for him and has made significant impacts in his life.

“It wasn’t until 1995 that I had to have bypass surgery, 17 years after my heart attack,” said Wiebe. “So I figure that coming here and being looked after certainly delayed that.”

Now 29 years on from that bypass surgery, Wiebe is still exercising at the Reh-Fit and maintains good health.

And though the celebrations of Reh-Fit’s anniversary and Smart for Your Heart month in February are important to recognize, Wiebe notes that the most important this is to ensure that the Centre and the health habits built here carry on throughout the year.

“Heart health isn’t just one month of the year for me, it’s every day.”

Join Reh-Fit in celebrating Smart for Your Heart month throughout February by attending one of the many events, including the Smart for Your Heart Education Series presented by Payworks, listed HERE.

For more information on the history of the Reh-Fit Centre, click HERE.