Eden Prairie Choice, Inc.’s Shape Center makes fitness more accessible

The Shape Center in Eden Prairie makes fitness accessible and fun.
Fitness coach Benjamin Walker works with Alex Katuska at the Shape Center in Eden Prairie.

Imagine an energy filling a fitness room that is welcoming, inclusive and encouraging. This is the motivational atmosphere that fills Choice, Inc.’s Shape Center, the fitness room located at its Eden Prairie facility.

Choice serves clients with intellectual disabilities, offering them a range of programs and services that help them lead enriching lives. Choice focuses on clients’ health and wellness through the Shape (Supporting healthy active people everyday) program and center. “Part of what we wanted to do was to make exercise and cardio movement part of our program for each and every person we serve on any given day,” Choice executive director Michael Kraines says.

The Shape Center is a place to get clients moving, but the space is not limited to only them. Kraines invites clients’ familes and friends to use the facilities, too. Staff are also welcome to work out at the center after hours. “I would love to see people without disability be workout buddies with the folks we serve,” Kraines says.

Opened in April 2015, the fitness room encourages clients to take a more active role with their health. “There is plenty of evidence that people with intellectual disabilities are leading more sedentary lifestyles than the typical population,” Kraines says.

He cites a 2014 Centers for Disease Control study that shows this population to be 58 percent more likely to suffer from obesity. This also means that people with intellectual disability are more likely to suffer from diabetes and have cardiovascular disease.

Some of the reasons individuals with intellectual disabilities lead more sedentary lifestyles involve accessibility. They may not have access to equipment, they may not have the resources nor the transportation to get to a fitness center. The Shape Center works to counter this by making fitness accessible.

Choice encourages people to engage in daily fitness while keeping in mind the health benefits for clients who lead healthier lifestyles. People with intellectual disabilities receive more medical services, doctor visits and medications. Leading healthier lifestyles can lessen this social cost in the long run.

The fitness room’s atmosphere is fun and motivational. They usually have music going. Participants can chose to work out alone or in planned group activities. In addition to the treadmills, elliptical machines and recumbent and stationary bicycles, the fitness room offers yoga and Zumba, along with training by fitness coach Benjamin Walker.

“The Shape Center is really cool,” says Scott Richardson, a Shape Center participant. “There’s a lot of people feeling motivated to go in there, and there are a lot of people who lost a lot of weight.”

Richardson, who now enjoys working out every day, likes using the treadmill, the bike, the elliptical and participating in Walker’s personal training class on Mondays.

Alex Katuska, another Shape participant, loved the center as soon as he heard they were building it. “I even have a workout goal because of it,” Katuska says. He enjoys many parts of the fitness room, but his favorite activity is lifting weights.

“We’ve seen a lot more people working out than we ever used to,” Choice program specialist Erin Sommer says. “They are actually enjoying it.”

Sommer also runs nutrition programs a few days a week, where frequent topics of discussion include nutritional meal plans and cooking healthy foods. “This just opened up a whole new opportunity for them to go after their nutrition and health goals,” Sommer says of the Shape program. “It’s really important because they haven’t always had that opportunity in their lives.”

“The enthusiasm around all of this has been remarkable among the people we serve,” Kraines says.

In April, Choice opened a second fitness center at its Maple Grove location. Along with this new 900-square-foot space for fitness comes the opportunity for more people to engage in active lifestyles. “Hopefully, at the end of the day, it’s about improving people’s health,” Kraines says.


Choice Inc.
7654 Executive Drive
Eden Prairie