Editor's note: The Area 1 Agency on Aging commissions freelance writer Carol Harrison to produce Gray Matters every two weeks.
Medline Plus calls exercise the fountain of youth, but some older Americans don't know where to begin and others need convincing.
That's why Area 1 Agency on Aging is partnering with local fitness experts and clubs during Older Americans Month in May. Expert Fitness for Women, Life Fitness and Fred Endert Municipal Swimming Pool are offering seniors some free orientation and training classes.
"If you've wanted to try Pilates or tai chi; if you've been thinking
it's time to embrace strength training or check out better balance
classes; if yoga or aqua aerobics are calling to you - May is your
chance," said Todd Metcalf, director of programs at A1AA.
Following are the details of each Crescent City offer:
andbull; First-time visitors age 55 and older can arrange for a one-week
pass at Express Fitness for Women at 700 Northcrest Drive near Home
Depot. Call Anita at 465-1806 or come in to set it up for a week. Try
yoga Pilates, Zumba or a circuit class.
andbull; Life Fitness is offering a one-week pass any time in May to those
age 65 and older. Call 465-3070 or drop by 520 Wilson, behind the
Shopsmart, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to
noon on Friday.
andbull; The municipal pool at 1000 Play Street is offering a one-time pass
for one class for those 60 and older. Classes include water aerobics,
stretch and tone, aqua jogging, water walking, lap swim or public
swim. Contact Brooke or Matt for the schedule, 464-9503.
For Del Norte County seniors who are regularly in Humboldt County,
drop by the A1AA office at 434 Seventh Street in Eureka to pick up a
three-day May pass to HealthSPORT in Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna or
com) or Cal Courts in Eureka or Cutten (445-5445). One pass per person age 60 and older and passes must be picked up from A1AA.
Another option: Arcata Core Pilates at 930 Samoa Blvd. for an 11 a.m.
class on Tuesdays geared exclusively to seniors. Call 845-8156 for
For more information, call A1AA at 707-464-7876, drop by 1765
Northcrest Drive in Crescent City or call one of the fitness centers
listed above. A1AA is also a referral agency for STRONG fitness programs
offered year-round throughout Humboldt and Del Norte counties.
According to the National Institutes of Health, regular exercise and
physical activity help people stay strong and fit enough to perform
daily activities, get around and maintain independence.
Physical activity refers to body movements associated with tasks such
as gardening, vacuuming, walking the dog or taking the stairs instead
of the elevator. Exercise is a planned, structured and repetitive
physical activity such as weight training, Pilates, aerobics or
"Too many people don't know how to get started," Metcalf said.
"They're afraid exercise is too dangerous or worried they'll get hurt.
They don't realize exercise and physical activity help maintain or
partially restore the endurance, strength, balance and flexibility we
need to live well, longer and independently."
"It's much more than okay for older people to exercise," stated
Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, on the NIH
website. "However, a number of well-conducted, controlled studies have
shown that a variety of exercises are not only safe for older people but
have enormous advantage."
Inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease
as those who are more active, the U.S. Surgeon General reports. Lack of
physical activity can also lead to more doctor visits, more
hospitalizations and more use of medicines for a variety of chronic
Exercise also helps prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities by lowering blood pressure or increasing bone density.
Some studies also suggest exercise reduces feelings of depression,
improves sleep, helps with stress management and improves cognitive
functions such as shifting quickly between tasks, planning, and ignoring
Endurance makes it easier to walk farther, faster and uphill, which
translates into making it easier to vacuum, work in the garden or rake
Strength training by lifting weights or using resistance bands
increases muscle strength and improves balance. Increased strength
helps people carry smaller grandchildren, climb stairs, carry groceries,
lift bags of yard clippings and open jars.
Balance exercises such as those in tai chi improve the ability to
maintain body position while moving or still. Good balance is essential
to preventing falls. Balance exercises can help people stand on tiptoe
to reach something on a top shelf, walk up and down stairs, and walk on
Stretching helps the body stay flexible and limber, giving more
freedom and range of movement, the NIH reports. That helps people bend
over to tie shoes or pick up something on the floor, swing a golf club,
pull a sweater over head, make the bed, and look over a shoulder to see
what's behind the car a driver is backing a car down a driveway.
Stretching exercises improve flexibility, but will not improve endurance or strength.
"If you're already active, use May to try something new, to add some
variety to what you do," Metcalf said. "If you don't exercise, May is
the chance to start. It's never too late to start."
Reach Carol Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.