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Staying fit heavily weighted at health fair

Edie Gilder stepped onto a medical scale and promptly smacked her head into a height rod in the "Body Fat Analysis" booth at Saturday's Rogue Valley Health Fair.

Gilder suggested that such bumps come with the territory when you're taller than average, as she is. The rest of her brief check with Providence Central Point Physical Therapy staff members at the Medford Armory went off without a hitch.

"The result was about where I thought it would be, but I exercise every day," said Gilder, a health educator who lives in Medford. "What's going on here today is important because people need to be more aware of the prevalence of overweight people and obesity."

The third annual health fair, sponsored by Providence Medical Group, began with a one-mile run at 8:15 a.m., and included booth displays from more than 80 exhibitors ranging from personal trainers to the Southern Oregon Runners club. Workshops were held every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on topics that included sleep apnea, dealing with chronic pain, controlling and preventing heart disease, weight loss and waterbirth.

At the body-fat booth, curious people tried out a device called an Omron body-fat analyzer, which looks like an electronic game-control device — requiring both hands — and sends an electrical charge through your body to tell you how much muscle and fat are on your bones.

"I found out I need to join a gym and lose some weight," said Jose Sanchez of Medford. "I'm not surprised; I've known I've needed to lose a few pounds."

There were no surprises for Ashland resident Rick Schmitt, who was pleased to report: "I'm still lean and mean."

Schmitt is a long-time vegan whose physical activities include pruning trees and home repairs. "My plant-based diet has kept me healthy all of these years," he said.

Faith Kashishian, who administered the body-fat tests with Shawna Shaw, said two categories of people are not allowed to take the test: people with pacemakers and pregnant women.

Ashli Hubbard of Central Point has taken a body-fat test before, but that was before having two children.

"I was thinking hopefully I'm not out of my range," Hubbard said. "It keeps me wanting to stay healthy and work out."

Sharon Matlock of White City wasn't sure what she was going to find out.

"I wanted to get some answers, and I found out their scale doesn't match mine at home," Matlock said. "That can be expected though because I've got all these sweaters on, a coat, big shoes and the whole nine yards."

Of the scores of people who stopped to have their body composition analyzed Saturday, most could smile, a few gave high-fives, and some emitted sighs of relief.

The wrong reading, however, could send people scurrying to sign up for a gym membership or fitness training. At the other end of the building, Brandon Overstreet, a certified personal trainer, was providing information at the Rogue Fit Solutions booth.

"When people sign up, they say they need to make a change; they want more energy," Overstreet said. "Most of them are scared to take that first step, to jump off the cliff. Once they do, they start to realize how good they can feel. In a three-month window, you can see whether they will stick with it or just go away."

While extra pounds are common, he said, a multitude of issues can trigger the desire to exercise and hit the weights.

"There are things going on in their life and it probably scares them," he said.

Everything remotely connected to health seemed to be on display at the event, including eye checks, bed sheets, health foods and cooking classes. Businesses and practitioners ranged from the Medford Food Co-op to chiropractors, acupuncturists and physical therapists.

Steve Buxton, who directs the Pear Blossom and Stagecoach runs, was encouraging visitors to participate in the two-dozen events put on or assisted by the Southern Oregon Runners club.

"It's not a matter of them running," Buxton said. "We're interested in just getting people out there to jog and walk and find other people who are doing the same thing."

Shawna Shaw, right, helps Edie Gilder use an Omron body-fat monitor Saturday at the third annual Rogue Valley Health Fair at the Medford Armory. - Julia Moore