New gym in Helena aims to help veterans and active-duty military with mental health

Posted at 5:18 PM, Jan 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-31 13:24:33-05

HELENA — A fitness center exclusively catering to veterans and active military personnel is opening a location in Helena this Wednesday, February 1 at 2475 North Cooke Street. Adaptive Performance Center’s (APC) mission is to help military personnel and veterans improve their mental health and wellness through physical exercise and the building of community.

“We have the opportunity to see the life come back into their eyes. And there's really nothing more amazing than to have somebody walk in the door who's nervous, who's not feeling very comfortable, doesn't make a lot of eye contact, doesn't interact a lot, and within a month or two months they're standing at the counter talking to you for an hour when they walk in the door,” says Co-Founder/CEO of APC, Karen Pearson.

Pearson says that she and Co-Founder Mitch Crouse were spurred to action after working alongside a national guard unit that saw multiple deaths by suicide.

“In traditional gyms, those were not places where veterans could really go. When you have loud weights drop and you have all of those kind of things happen, those are not sounds that are conducive to them feeling like they have a place where they feel safe. And so, when you take your walk around the gym today, you'll notice we have rubber flooring, we have rubber coated weights,” says Pearson.

APC opened its first location in Billings nearly three years ago right at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, they’ve seen their membership explode to over 600 people. The decision to expand into Helena was due to the fact that there is a large number of veterans in the area along with active personnel at Fort Harrison.

APC offers personal trainers, peer mentorship, veteran liaison assistance, and physical health and wellness classes.

“Whether they're struggling with the VA, getting their disability ratings, whether they're struggling with housing, food, any other thing that you can think of, we, our liaisons can help them with that. We have peer mentors on staff. We have an occupational therapist on staff. So, we can serve veterans from a perspective of everything in their life. It is very much a holistic approach to anything that may be going on in their life,” says Pearson.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or an emotional crisis, know that help is available by dialing 988. The Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.