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Gyms reach out to the senior set

Never too late to work on muscle tone, agility
By: Michelle Miller-Carl Journal News Editor
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If you’re of a certain age and looking for the fountain of youth, you might just find it in the gym. “I feel the same way now as I did when I was 40,” said Bobbie Baron, 72, following a body sculpting class at Total Fitness in Auburn Monday. Baron has worked out all her life and enjoys walking around the trails near her home in Cool in addition to hitting the gym. “I like working out in a class environment because the leader keep you going,” she said. “There’s fun people, too. I feel like this is my second home.” Many gyms are catering to older adults by offering options for those of all fitness levels. Wendy Beress, a physical therapist and personal trainer at Total Fitness, said she’s noticed the number of older adults at the gym increasing over the past few years. “It’s fun to see,” she said. “A lot of individuals have never worked out in their lives. They’ve never been in a gym.” Beress is a personal trainer for several senior clients. She recommends older adults get clearance from their doctors before starting an exercise regimen. A regular exercise routine is key to preventing health problems down the line, she said. “Many of the seniors have lost muscle mass, so it’s important to restart that,” Beress said. “Muscle mass contributes to overall strength, which become a factor to help with balance issues. Falls are a big risk for seniors, along with the resulting injuries.” According to the Centers for Disease Control, by age 75, one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity. The CDC recommends seniors with no health concerns get two hours and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each week with two or more days a week of strength training for all the major muscle groups. Total Fitness has several classes that are ideal for seniors including low-impact fitness and balance. Beress said personal trainers such as herself can help those new to the gym learn how to use the machines and find lower impact exercises that can work around any physical limitations. Aside from improved flexibility, balance, and endurance, Beress said there are also psychological benefits to exercise that can be especially good news for seniors. A reduction in stress and improved mood can combat depression, a common issue for seniors, Beress said, and studies have shown exercise can improve the cognitive skills of older adults. “The generation these people came from was initially very physically active,” Beress said. “Now that we’re living longer, that activity has dropped off, so (seniors) need to intervene and take care of themselves.” Joyce Israel, 75, of Auburn was in a low-impact sculpting class at Total Fitness Monday. The class is designed for seniors with modified jumping jacks (to reduce impact) and medicine ball tossing. “For an old lady, I hold my own,” Israel said after her workout. Israel started taking yoga classes and going to gyms a couple years ago because she got bored with walking. She enjoys the energy boost she gets on days she works out. “It’s not for weight, it’s more for conditioning,” she said. “I’m still vertical and I want to stay that way.” Over at Auburn Yoga & Fitness Studio, owner Gwenn Jones estimates that 60 percent to 70 percent of her clientele is over age 60. Two popular classes for older adults are yoga and “Gentle Moves,” a slow-paced aerobics class that focuses on flexibility and balance. Jones said yoga attracts many seniors because it is easily modified. The downward dog pose, for instance, can be adjusted for those with arthritis by coming down on elbows to avoid stress on the wrists. The beginning yoga class also goes nice and slow, Jones said, allowing for those who are new to yoga and might take longer to get into a pose. The Journal’s Michelle Miller-Carl can be reached at michellem@goldcountrymedia.com.