Exercise helps seniors 'keep on keeping on'

Dana Peveler, executive director of the Munday Activity Center in Owensboro.

One of the most fulfilling pieces of my work is when I get to participate in one of our classes.

I recently spent time in one of our yoga classes. What I learned was both beneficial and surprising! Sure, I knew our yoga class was growing by leaps and bounds and that it relieves stress, strengthens core muscles, increases flexibility, strengthens bones, but there was so much I didn't realize.

I learned that the class does unique exercises that work the hands which one student told me had specifically helped her with her crocheting. How interesting. How's that for extending your ability to continue a hobby?

I cannot tell you how often I hear someone say they wish they could still do needlepoint, or that they could still knit or crochet. Yoga!

Have plantar fasciitis? Yoga! Our instructor has begun working with our class by incorporating alternating tennis balls under their feet. Students can bring concerns to her and she will work with them either to design individualized movements to maximize their benefit or incorporate solutions within the group if they are common issues.

I spoke with one student who told me that she wasn't as anxious after the classes and that she even handled difficult situations better when they arose now that she had been practicing yoga.

I noticed, too, that the group is more than just a class -- they're friends. When I asked if they all knew each other before the class started, they shared that they didn't, but over time, the friendships evolved. Some of them even went to Ireland together on a trip through the Senior Center this past April.

Yoga, however, isn't the only health promotional class we offer. We also have low-impact aerobics, for folks who want a different pace, and Bingocize, for those who want to combine bingo with exercise. We have a fitness room where you can do self-guided workouts and we offer classes that teach techniques to strengthen muscles designed specifically to prevent falls in our Matter of Balance classes.

The benefits of taking classes at a gym or senior center, for example, is to not only increase overall fitness, but it helps to reduce isolation by getting us outside our homes into a group setting.

We build relationships with like-minded people. We hold each other accountable by reminding each other to go. More than that, though, exercise is safer when you try it as a group. Seniors who are wanting to make the most out of an exercise program generally push themselves harder when they are in a formal exercise program with others than when they exercise alone and may actually see greater results.

Exercise, as we age, is linked to slower mental decline, another excellent reason to begin. You feel less pressure, particularly at a senior center because our classes are designed to make modifications when necessary.

Our yoga instructor will offer private sessions in between classes by appointment if needed, as well. Your success is our success. I think Sheila Clark, our yoga instructor, said it best: "Our goal is not perfection. It is to do something you've never done before. To keep on keeping on."

Dana Peveler is the executive director of the Senior Community Center of Owensboro-Daviess County.

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