January's new beginnings

New Year's resolutions are as much a part of American culture as Fourth of July fireworks, it seems.

For many, it's a new start: An appropriate time to swear off those ubiquitous holiday sweets, to lose weight or to exercise more. Judging from the fitness studio ads in the papers, all across Northwest Colorado this January there are ample opportunities to exercise your option to exercise more.

Even if you suffer from arthritis, your January resolutions can become reality. Katherine Gourley, 81, of Steamboat Springs, has arthritis. "Who doesn't at my age?" she muses. "I've always been active, and I love yard work, but I've had arthritis in my hands."

Through the Northwest Colorado VNA's Aging Well program, Gourley has been attending Arthritis Foundation Exercise classes at the Selbe Apartments for several months. "I think the class has improved my agility."

According to the Arthritis Foundation, simple exercises performed as little as twice a week can significantly reduce levels of pain caused by arthritis, improve your range of motion, and even put you in a good mood. Simple movements such as turning your head to the left and right or playing a quick game of sit-down kick ball can make a difference. The classes are designed to be fun, easy and effective, offering participants a means to actually prove that exercise makes a difference in the way they move and the way they feel. A fitness assessment is given at the beginning and end of each series of classes to measure aerobic endurance and flexibility. Katherine improved in all but one category during her first eight weeks of class.

The Aging Well Program began teaching Arthritis Foundation exercise classes in Steamboat Springs in April last year. Since then, classes have been added at the Steamboat Springs Community Center and the Hayden Congregational Church, with new classes scheduled to begin this month in Oak Creek, Craig and Maybell. The class is a nationally recognized program that will help individuals with mild to severe arthritis. It includes gentle movements focused on joints from head to toe. It's all part of the Aging Well program's commitment to lifelong learning, physical activity and nutrition of older adults, according to Molly Fetcher, the VNA's Aging Well Fitness Coordinator. "Best of all, classes are free for participants. Even more reason to come join us," says Fetcher.

"Our instructors must complete a training and certification program given by the Arthritis Foundation to learn proper exercise technique and procedure for working with people with arthritis," Fetcher said. Several local residents from Craig and Steamboat Springs recently attended the training in Craig. "They fill the need for instructors as the number of classes grows in Routt and Moffat Counties," Fetcher said. "These classes are a fun way to stay healthy, active and social, especially during the long winters around here."

Katherine Gourley seems to agree. "I like that the class keeps you motivated," Gourley said. "I had gotten a little lazy with exercise. This class is a good way to help me focus on it again."

If you are interested in attending an Arthritis Foundation exercise class or want to learn more, call the Aging Well Information Line at 871-7676 or check out the Aging Well Web site at www.agingwelltoday.com.

Gena Fisher is part of a team of instructors offering certified, evidence-based fitness classes to older adults across Northwest Colorado through the VNA's AgingWell Program.

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