PEIA insuring healthy lifestyle

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

The beginning of Spring is a time for change – a time for goals and resolutions to be made – and for those in Pocahontas County, the Marlinton Community Wellness Center is a place where many can achieve those goals. A wide range of classes, a well-equipped fitness room and an open gym are just some of the many opportunities available for those who wish to make a healthy change, and for those who teach or are employed by the county/state, a wellness program allows them to take things one step further.

A number of wellness tools are available through PEIA insurance, and at the Marlinton Community Wellness Center, PEIA Preferred Provider Benefit [PPB] card carriers are given the chance to participate in a weight management program designed to help members develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

To help with The program utilizes the services of exercise and nutritional professionals, as well as professional phone counselors, to help participants make necessary lifestyle changes, and at the Wellness Center, local exercise physiologist Paula Zorn assists.

For those in the program, the cost of a Wellness Center membership is waived as long participants utilize the center’s services a minimum of eight times a month.

In order to qualify for the program, PEIA members must have a body mass index [BMI] percentage of 25 or higher, a waist circumference of 35 or greater in women, or a waist circumference of 40 or higher in men.

Once registered, participants meet with Zorn for an initial assessment where cardiovascular and strength tests, measurements, BMI percentages and more are calculated to mark the start of their two-year journey to a healthier lifestyle.

It is during this time that fitness plans are set. Each plan is designed to accommodate an individual’s needs – be it joint issues, back pain or medication – and once the plans have been set, Zorn begins meeting with each participant twice a month for personal training. Once the first six months have passed, Zorn will meet with each individual once a month to check their progress.

The ultimate goal of the program is to reduce each participant’s BMI percentage – thus opening the door for increased mobility and strength. Life in Pocahontas County offers so many outdoor opportunities, and Zorn wants her trainees to be able to go outside and enjoy them.

One woman’s journey has only just reached the halfway point, but in the year since beginning PEIA’s weight management program, she has lost 92 lbs.

According to Zorn, breaking old habits is not as easy as one might think. It’s a change that needs to come slowly, and for Jane Doe*, she chipped away at her old habits one day at a time. For example, rather than simply sitting at her desk and eating lunch while on break, Doe* began walking during her lunch. She then picked up walking in the evenings, as well, and follows through with the suggestions made by the program’s dietitian.

“It’s so fun to watch the transformation,” Zorn said. “She feels so much better, and she’s able to do so much more than what she was able to do before. Her cholesterol’s down, her blood pressure’s down, and everything’s improved. She’s doing great, and she’s such an inspiration to the group.”

Once a month, Zorn and all the participating members gather at the Wellness Center to share their experiences. While there, members are able to talk about their challenges, share in one another’s successes, and reaffirm that they are not alone in this journey.

“It’s a great program,” Zorn said, “and there are so many people in the county who have PEIA insurance. You’ve got your teachers and county and state employees. There are so many people with PEIA that aren’t taking advantage of the program.”

Before coming to the county, Zorn worked as a physical therapist for a number of years. However, Zorn’s work soon helped her realize that – rather than working with people who were already hurt or injured – she wanted to work on the wellness side of things. Zorn wanted to help people become more active and build their strength in order to prevent them from hurting themselves and resulting in therapy.

Since returning to Pocahontas County, Zorn has found working as the Wellness Center’s personal trainer and exercise physiologist to be a natural fit, and enjoys helping people along in their journey.

“It’s ninety percent in your head,” she said. “Getting back on track – or getting on track for the first time, even – ninety percent of it is in your head. Once you make it to the door of the wellness center, you’re gonna walk inside. But you can tell yourself a thousand reasons why you aren’t going to get there. We all have twenty-four hours in a day, and it’s just what you do with those twenty-four hours.”

The Marlinton Community Wellness Center is located at the corner of Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue and is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.; and closed Sundays. The center may be reached via phone at 304-799-7386. For more information on additional programs and wellness center locations throughout the county, please visit

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