For the one in five Americans with a disabling or chronic condition (U.S. Census), there’s a point when the insurance-covered rehabilitation taps out—despite the need for ongoing restorative physical activity in a safe environment. Northridge, California based entrepreneur Aaron Baker is picking up the slack with his low-cost rehabilitative fitness center, called the Center for Restorative Exercise (C.O.R.E.), that he hopes to expand in 2016.

C.O.R.E. was inspired by the success story of Aaron Baker, a professional motocross racer who became a quadriplegic after a training accident in 1999. Aaron had been given a grim prognosis—a one-in-a-million chance of even feeding himself again—but deep inside he knew things could turn out different. His progression has been nothing shy of a miracle, learning to stand, walk with crutches, then ride a tricycle and even pedal it across the United States. But what now feels like a foregone conclusion wasn’t always so.

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For Baker, one of the largest obstacles to his recovery was lack of access to proper resources for improved health and physical fitness. After one year in therapy, Aaron’s time in rehab was cut off. The insurance caps reached their maximum and he was forced out of the only available programs where he could make progress. He was still a long way from standing on his own but he was showing promising signs of movement in all four limbs.

With his mother’s help, Aaron found his way to Northridge based Clinical Exercise Physiologist, Taylor Kevin Isaacs. “Too many people with a disabling condition accept their diagnosis, stop pushing for their health, and measure their success or failure by the passage of time instead of by the progress made in their recovery,” says Isaacs. “C.O.R.E. is on a mission to change that. While physical inactivity can cause the body to break down and degenerate, an active lifestyle can energize, maintain, and return function to the body. Exercise is medicine.”

Baker’s own experience in defying the odds inspired him, his mother Laquita Dian, and Isaacs to create a place where other special-need individuals could receive support and have the same opportunity for recovery as he did. Clients at C.O.R.E. include those suffering from a spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and other disabling conditions.

“When my son was injured, I retired my career and focused entirely on assisting Aaron’s recovery process,” his mother recalls. “Aaron was deemed ‘rehabilitated’ after one year of physical therapy, even though he was still highly impaired, unable to handle any of his personal needs, and confined to an electric wheelchair. The realization that there were no facilities that provided ongoing therapeutic exercise for conditions like Aaron’s was inconceivable. From that moment, I realized that at some point we were going to open a facility that provided what we knew was absolutely vital for wellness after suffering a catastrophic injury or illness.”

C.O.R.E. strives to fill this health and wellness gap between physical therapy and independent fitness. A state-of-the-art, niche fitness facility focused on rehabilitation, C.O.R.E. is primed to change the way people view the possibilities for recovery from a disability or chronic illness. It helps clients at all stages of recovery and ability accomplish their goals by providing affordable and personalized evaluations, education, and progressive treatment plans. But perhaps most importantly the gym is affordable meeting the fixed income needs of many who need this service.

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“Creating a safe and productive environment for such a diverse group of people with complex health requirements was a challenge,” Baker notes. “People who are attracted to our service have very different and complex physical needs and we have worked a long time to create a methodology and philosophy that is consistent for the large variation of those clients. We call our propriety service the TKI System of Function and all of our specialists are certified in this process now.” Aaron also counts having a good instinct for human resources as a key component to the success of his business: “Working hard to find the right staff that has a keen interest in this complicated client base is no small challenge, but we’re lucky in that we’ve found a fantastic team that clients are very responsive to.”

C.O.R.E.’s client base is growing rapidly and they plan to expand to their second location in 2016. One of the key ingredients to our success,” Baker says, “is promoting the power of possibility through regenerative programs. Unfortunately, many of our clients have been diagnosed with bleak outcomes and hear a lot of negativity. You’d be surprised at how well people and their bodies actually respond to this change in messaging.”

The story of Baker and C.O.R.E. is the subject of a new documentary titled Coming to My Senses, the film will document Baker’s 15-year struggle to reclaim movement, share the effects of sudden trauma on his family, and introduce C.O.R.E.’s new paradigm for rehabilitation in the spinal cord injury community.

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