Going Strong

Going StrongEmerald Coast Seniors and Fitness Centers Prove There’s No Age Limit on Exercising  By Jennifer Ewing

If your image of an active senior population involves quilting bees and bridge tournaments, think again. With programs and incentives designed specifically for older adults, nearby gyms are keeping the 65-and-over crowd as busy as ever. In fact, between walking the length of Turkey Creek Nature Trail in Niceville, striking down pins at local bowling alleys and breaking a sweat in aerobics classes, Emerald Coast senior citizens are becoming so active that they just might end up helping everyone else cross the streets.

Still, as with anyone beginning a new exercise routine, it’s important for older exercisers to take precautions. In order to avoid injury, they should be aware of pre-existing health conditions and approach fitness with reasonable goals.

“It’s really important for seniors to realize their limitations but also realize they aren’t as limited by those as they think they are,” says Tanya Keel, manager at Curves in Niceville. “Sometimes they’re amazed by how much they can do.”

Gold’s Gym in Destin has fitness experts on staff who work with all age groups and body types — including seniors.

“If a senior is just starting out, it is a good idea to have them meet with a certified personal trainer to demonstrate proper techniques and exercises,” says Jayson Flory, director of fitness at Gold’s.

By engaging in a low-impact workout, such as walking or aerobics, and using proper form and moderate weight on exercise machines, older adults can get the most from their time at the gym.

Oftentimes, exercise actually helps seniors to overcome their initial limitations, greatly improving their quality of life.

“One of our new members is 70 years old and was just able to bend down and tie her shoe for the first time in years,” says Donna Lambert, also a manager at Curves in Niceville. Another Curves member is thrilled to be able to vacuum her house all at once again.

These daily triumphs may seem like small feats, but they are milestones for older adults as the purpose of exercise changes drastically over time.

“As a person grows from a child to an adult, they use exercise and activity to develop and understand their motor skills and strength. It is the opposite for seniors,” Flory, of Gold’s Gym, explains. “In their case, exercise helps to maintain and prevent the loss of those skills and strengths they have acquired over their life.”

By maintaining these skills through regular exercise, senior citizens can enjoy a higher level of independence. Staying active also can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, increase energy levels and reduce muscle and joint pain. In addition, seniors enjoy the opportunity to build friendships as they exercise.

“The social aspect helps to keep them motivated,” Flory says.

The Silver Sneakers Fitness Program allows older adults insured through Medicare to receive free memberships at select gyms. Curves locations in Niceville, Destin, Fort Walton Beach and DeFuniak Springs are just some of the fitness centers participating in the Silver Sneakers exercise incentive program.

For more information, visit silversneakers.com and curves.com. More information regarding Gold’s Gym can be found at goldsgym.com.