Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Keeping Fit: Gym Sees Increase in Seniors

“On Monday mornings, a group of five women stretch and lift weights through a one-hour ‘Fit After Fifty’ exercise program. ‘You don't want to hurt yourself, obviously,’ personal trainer Lori Britting told the group, ‘but you want to feel a nice stretch.’ After trying their hand with exercise balls, bungee cords and weights, the group went off refreshed, joking with one another as they helped Britting put away the equipment. The program is one of three senior classes offered at the Personal Best Health Club. The other classes include a yoga for balance course and a Zumba program, which sets an exercise routine to Latin music. Christine Bishop, owner of Personal Best Health Club, estimated that almost one-quarter of the gym's members were seniors. She and her husband purchased the gym in December and began offering the classes in response to the increase in senior membership. ‘It's not getting someone buff to go to the beach,’ Bishop said. ‘It's watching someone change their quality of life.’ Bishop said seniors start attending the gym for different reasons. Some are recovering from an injury or trying to get off medication, some are trying to maintain a level of fitness, and some are looking for a place to be social. Britting said the exercise can help in the treatment of diabetes, high blood pressure, or arthritis. She said one member went off diabetes medication after six weeks at the gym. The gym has also increased the size of the numbers on the exercise equipment and the font of printed handouts to facilitate seniors in independent workouts. Bishop said some seniors are still able to keep pace in more advanced classes. She noted 77-year-old Chris Pottle, of Oxford, takes part in an aerobics class. ‘He just goes in there and he blows them all out of the water,’ said Bishop. Pottle was more modest in his assessment. ‘I can keep up, but some of those Amazons I can't come close to,’ he said. ‘I can keep up with anyone my age and even some that are younger.’ Pottle said the program has helped him in a weight loss program and has eliminated what he thought was arthritis in his knees. He has been attending the gym with his wife for seven years. ‘She kind of eased me into it,’ he said. ‘She'd been doing it longer than I had.’ Miriam Laster, 78, of Norway said she has been exercising since the 1970s. ‘I could just see the benefits,’ she said. Laster hopes to make 500 visits to the gym before her 80th birthday in July 2010. As of last week, she was up to 398. Avis Coolidge, 78, of Oxford said her two daughters encouraged her to start exercising after she recently had open-heart surgery and injured her leg. She said she has since gotten stronger and more ambitious. ‘The more I've done it, the more I've liked it,’ Coolidge said. ‘I really look forward to it now.’”


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