Aging Well: Strength exercise yields essential benefits
July 26, 2010
■ Aging Well offers a variety of classes to help older adults improve their muscle and bone strength, balance, coordination and overall well-being. Arthritis Foundation Exercise, Aquatics and Tai Chi, and N’Balance classes are offered in Craig and locations throughout Routt County. There is no charge for most classes though donations are appreciated. For more information, visit http://www.agingwelltoday.com or call 871-7676.
■ The Routt County Council on Aging and CMC are partnering to offer a new fall class, Physical Conditioning for Seniors with instructor Loren Wood. The class will focus on strength, balance, aerobic and stretching exercises. It will be from 10:45 to 11:35 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays beginning Sept. 1 and ending Dec. 15. Transportation is available to the class location at CMC. The cost is $24.50 for adults 62 and older and $49 for other participants. For more information or to register, call Laura at 879-0633.
■ For information and tips about strength training for older adults, visit http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/index.html.
Steamboat Springs — It's a bright summer morning at Colorado Mountain College, and the campus weight room is bustling with activity.
There, students in a basic weight training class — their ages ranging from 20 to 60 and older — go about their routines, pushing themselves toward stronger bodies and minds.
"There's kind of a myth that as you get older, weight training isn't appropriate, but it's just the opposite," instructor Loren Wood said.
Regularly strength training improves muscle strength and tone, increases metabolism for better weight control and increases bone density, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These benefits translate into better flexibility and balance and, in turn, fewer falls, as well as reduced risk of fractures, particularly in post-menopausal women who typically lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass annually.
The CDC also notes, and studies show, that strength training helps reduce arthritis pain, improves glucose control in people with diabetes, improves symptoms of depression, helps lower risk of heart disease and also aids in the rehabilitation of cardiac patients.
Throw in a confidence boost and the results can be significant to a person's overall well-being.
"It's a great thing to make part of your life — it enhances all of your other activities," said Jan Seiler, who is among older adults who have made the CMC class a mainstay in their exercise routine.
Wood, a personal trainer and instructor specializing in exercise for older adults and individuals with physical, mental and emotional challenges, notes that symptoms such as joint stiffness and weak muscles often are because of years of misuse — lack of exercise, poor diet and too much stress — more than the aging process.
Regardless of age, it's never too late to start a strength exercise routine. Plenty of facilities and programs offer a wide variety of opportunities fitting different abilities and goals.
The CDC recommends older adults perform strength exercises targeting all major muscle groups two or more days per week in addition to at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
There are many ways they can accomplish these goals including Pilates, yoga, tai chi and water exercise. Resistance bands, free weights and other props also can be used to target various muscle groups.
Classes can range from rigorous to very gentle. Some classes, such as those offered by the Aging Well program of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, further address older adults' needs.
Individuals with injuries or chronic conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure or symptoms that could be related to a chronic condition should check with their doctor about the type and amount of exercise that is appropriate for their situation.
It's a good idea for individuals just getting started to join a class — making sure to talk to the instructor about particular limitations or goals — or utilize a personal trainer to help them develop a safe and effective routine.
Wood, for example, helps each person in his classes plan a personalized routine to work on throughout the class duration.
This type of assistance, in addition to the company of other participants, can help make strength exercise less intimidating.
"You can start very small," Seiler said. "It's really encouraging to see how quickly you build up strength."
The social benefits of working with others toward similar goals, laughing at mishaps and urging others' efforts can be a great source of motivation.
"The camaraderie is just wonderful," Karen Kellogg said. "A lot of us have been in the class awhile, and we all know each other. It's really cool."
Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. For more information, visit http://www.agingwelltoday.com or call 871-7676.