Staying Active With Age

Armen Hareyan's picture
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The need for viable exercise avenues for seniors has never been greater. A full one third of seniors nationwide participate in no leisure time physical activity.Aging and Fitness

Jerry Hansen came to the UW Health Sports Medicine Center's Senior Health and Fitness Day hoping to reclaim the good exercise habits he lost in the past few years.

Hansen, 78 and a 52-year Madison resident, maintained a consistently active lifestyle before April, 2004, when his right hip had to be replaced.

"We have a treadmill in our basement and I'd go on that every day," he says. "We have a (stationary) bicycle that we used regularly. And I love golfing."

The hip operation, however, limited his activities to the rehabilitation regimen his physician prescribed. And two days before Christmas last year, he suffered another serious setback. While visiting his daughter, he slipped and broke his right leg.

More surgery followed, and the treadmill and exercise bike sat idle in the basement.

But in Senior Health and Fitness Day, a one-day open house that featured facility tours and classes the public was welcome to watch or participate in, Hansen saw the opportunity to rediscover the active lifestyle his injuries had taken away.

Of special interest to Hansen was the arthritis warm-water exercise class. Taking place in the Center's warm-water exercise pool and designed with the older person's health needs in mind, the class promotes range of motion, flexibility and strength while using water's natural buoyancy to minimize impact on the joints.

"We're both 78 years old, and arthritis sets in," Hansen says of himself and his wife. "I think I'm doing very well on my rehab, but I think I might be able to get a little more exercise in the water."

Jody Oester, the Sports Medicine Center's aquatic team leader who teaches a number of water-based senior classes, including aqua strength and flexibility, arthritis plus and senior aqua aerobics, agrees. She says the minimal impact of her exercise classes is particularly appropriate for the older exerciser.

"When they go in the water, it displaces 90 to 92 percent of their body weight," she says. "They can move more easily in the water and get a fuller range of motion. The water is comforting, so they can exercise and work aerobically."

In addition to the arthritis class Hansen attended, Senior Health and Fitness Day offerings included:

  • Senior aqua aerobics: a water-based class that combines the buoyancy and resistance of the water to provide an effective, low-impact workout performed in chest-deep water.

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  • Spine ball strength and flexibility: a land-based class that provides an efficient way to increase strength, gain flexibility and improve trunk stability (abdominal and back strength) through guided exercise using spine balls.

  • Adaptive Pilates: a mat workout that concentrates on teaching your core muscles (abdominals and hips) to maintain a stable position while stretching and lengthening the entire body.

  • Feldenkrais method: movement skills that increase ease and range of motion and tap into the human body's innate capacity for graceful, efficient movement.

  • Aqua strength and flexibility: a water-based class that uses the warmth of the therapy pool to encourage flexibility and range of motion, while using the natural resistance of the water for strength training.

The need for viable exercise avenues for seniors has never been greater. In its "State of Aging and Health in America 2004," the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that only 35.1 percent of men and 26.6 percent of women 65 years and older engage in 30 minutes of moderately strenuous exercise (e.g., a brisk walk) five times per week.

A full one-third of seniors nationwide, in fact, participate in no leisure-time physical activity at all, and Wisconsin is no exception. Just under 28 percent of our state's seniors devote no time to exercise, despite the fact that the CDC recommends regular physical activity as an effective way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and colon cancer.

Karla Bock, a Sports Medicine Center instructor whose classes include senior dance aerobics and senior dance training, sees her classes as a way for seniors to avoid pitfalls common to growing older.

"Balance is a big issue for seniors," she says "Falls are a big injury risk and can have major repercussions. (By getting proper exercise) they can be healthier, be more functional and stay independent."

Jerry Hansen, though, has a different goal in mind.

"I'd like to get back to golfing," he says.

For more information about the Sports Medicine Center, go to http://www.uwsportsmedicine.org You can also search for individual classes online by accessing uwhealth.org's classes database.

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MADISON - Copyright � � 2005 University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Authority

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