Sports & Recreation

Elbows to knees requires balance and also works the core muscles. Seniors use the chair for support.

Seniors Make Time to Exercise, Do You?
By Sheila Begay
Au-Authm Action News

“I keep working out because I don’t want to depend on walkers or canes. I don’t want to be helpless,” said Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Gloria Loma about the Salt River Senior Enhance® Fitness program. “I’m in my 70s, and I always think to myself, ‘I can do it.’”

Since 2011, the Salt River Senior Services Department has worked in collaboration with the Salt River Fitness Center instructors to bring the first Enhance Fitness program to the Community. This nationwide program has been implemented by various communities and organizations, including SRPMIC, as a way to improve the health of seniors and older adults through exercise.

Everyone’s fitness goals are different depending on age. The younger we are, the more energy we tend to have. The older we get, the more we tend to lose that energy. Perhaps you’d like to run a marathon, do unassisted pull-ups or squat 150 pounds. Whatever you have set yourself out to do, take time to ask what your elders’ health and fitness goals are. You will be surprised.

Some goals of the seniors in the Enhance Fitness program include walking up stairs, picking up grandchildren, walking a mile, maintaining balance, maintaining sugar intake, and being able to catch themselves if they start to fall. These actions may seem minor to the average adult, but they can be a huge accomplishment for many seniors.

“The program focuses on balance, upper- and lower-body muscle tone, and cardio. The [seniors] get to set their own pace in a group setting among their peers,” said Charlene Johnson, coordinator at the SRPMIC Senior Center.

SRPMIC physical fitness specialist Dion Begay is one of six fitness instructors working with the seniors. “My goal for the seniors is overall health; to be better than they were last year, or better than they were two years ago. I told them not to look at it as ‘I’m going to lose a lot of weight,’ look at it as ‘I’m going to be stronger and live a healthier life in the upcoming years.’ A lot of them had injuries, mobility and balance issues when they first started; those are the things I wanted to correct,” said Begay.

Benefits of Senior Fitness
According to the Enhance Fitness website, “The program significantly improved overall fitness and health [for its participants.] The original independent study demonstrated that participants realized 13 percent improvement in social function, 52 percent improvement in depression, and 35 percent improvement in physical functioning.”

Begay added, “When they first started, some of my participants used walkers and canes. Now, they don’t use them as much anymore. Every week I’ll get someone who says, ‘I almost fell, but I caught myself’ or ‘I pulled myself up.’ Those are the things I’m looking for.”

“I’ve talked with our participants and they said they have more energy, maneuver around more (compared with before), have increased their flexibility and balance, and they have noticed more muscle tone. I would say [our program] has had some good results,” said Johnson.

“The program has helped me; we also get the fun part of it. We laugh at each other, and it’s better to work as a group than by yourself at home. I recommend this class all the time,” said Community member LaBerta Collins.

“My wife is on dialysis and this helps her a lot, so I come with her. She found out that doing all these exercises made a difference,” said Sheron Manuel about his wife, Community member Aggie Manuel. “For myself, I can move around a whole lot better, I have better balance, and I can stand up and sit down [more easily]. We look forward to it.”

“I think [Enhance Fitness] helps [our] health. I always think [to myself], ‘If you don’t do it, you’re sure to end up on dialysis.’ That’s the first thing that comes to mind [as a senior] if you don’t exercise,” said Loma. “I really enjoy [this class], and when I don’t come, I miss it. Every year I say I’m going to quit, but I keep coming back. I walk a lot and do things myself.”

“As seniors, I think when we retire we just want to sit around and do nothing. That’s when all the problems happen—the sickness, our bodies change, and diabetes increases too. We should do something and move around, find something to look forward to,” said Manuel.

Trying Out the Salt River Fitness Center
“Another goal is to transition [seniors] from what we’re doing here to [working out at] the Salt River Fitness Center. In the past year, I’ve had three transitions. A lot of [what keeps seniors from going to the Fitness Center] is the intimidation factor. A lot of [them] are intimidated by the setting, the weights, by some of the participants who [work out there], or the stigma of weight training, where they think they have to bench press, squat or dead-lift. I want them to get over that,” said Begay.

“I know that some of our seniors can start dead-lifting and squatting because they make it look so effortless on these chairs,” added Begay about his participants. “A lot of the things we do here, I know other senior groups wouldn’t be able to do.”

In case you’re interested or know of anyone who might be, classes are held on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Lehi Community Building from 9 to 10 a.m. On average, each class will have 12 to 14 participants, but some have had 23. With the Salt River Senior Services Building currently undergoing renovation, all classes have been moved to Lehi until further notice. Transportation is available.

For more information about the SRPMIC Enhance Fitness Program, call Charlene Johnson, Senior Center coordinator, at (480) 603-5741.

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