Senior Exercise Photos Above: Big smiles from Fitness for Health participants. Below top to bottom: Betty Steinmetz strengthens balance and concentration as she swats popping lights on the Sports Wall. Judy Bergman mimics movement patterns displayed on the interactive Trazer screen at Fitness for Health. Charlotte Podgor bends and stretches to tap flashing lights on the Batak machine.
Spiced up exercise has seniors asking for more
LifeTimes – Compliments of Fitness for Health – www.fitnessforhealth.org – 301.231.7138
What does it take to motivate seniors of a certain age to commit to a physical exercise regime? Here’s what a group of Ring House and Revitz House residents, who completed a ten-week pilot program at Rockville’s Fitness for Health gym, say: “Make it fun … and seniors will come!”
Fitness for Health, a therapeutic exercise and training center, takes an innovative approach to fitness. Founder Marc Sickel has shifted away from a standard exercise model toward one that employs intriguing games on cutting-edge “exergaming” equipment with catchy names like Makoto, Ttazer, Batak, and Sport Wall. “This high-tech apparatus is fun, engaging for the users, and increases the chances that they’ll stick with the program,” says Sickel. Activities are designed to improve mental processing, balance, fitness levels, and build confidence.
To evaluate the benefits of this type of program at Fitness for Health, residents, ranging in age from 52 to 92, participated in a pilot program. They completed the Brief Cognitive Assessment Tool (BCAT) and the RehabCare Senior Fitness Test before, midway, and at the conclusion of the program. In addition, at every visit, participants completed a RehabCare Smile/Mood Test.
Beyond the fact that all residents experienced a pronounced lift in mood and sense of well-being, they loved taking part in exercise games they had never tried before, and appreciated the friendly encouragement of fitness trainers.
Statistics from the Senior Fitness Test are very positive; 65 percent showed improvements in lower body strength, speed, agility, and balance, while over 75 percent improved on stamina and endurance. Most exciting and notable were physical gains by female participants in their 90’s; their stamina and endurance were enhanced and their scores rose in measurements of lower and upper body strength.
Residents were euphoric. Marion Poker, 88, “loved working out with friends.” Betty Steinmetz, 91, enjoyed “exercising our eyes and minds as well as our bodies.” Staff observed how much residents welcomed the break from “normal” routines and were filled with enthusiasm from the moment they boarded campus buses.
“We absolutely enjoyed having the residents and staff at our facility,” says Chris Garcia, director of operations at Fitness for Health. “It was great working with your group and making a difference in their lives. It was also great to see and hear the progress that they made in the short amount of time. We loved listening to their stories, and it seemed like they enjoyed sharing them with us.”
This program turned everyone into a champion.