Being physically fit is a plus, no matter the age.
Mariah Bloom, exercise specialist at Menorah Park in Beachwood, said seniors could benefit from keeping fit.
“It’s overall health, but the main thing to stress here is to exercise regularly for the avoidance of injury,” Bloom said. “You can keep your muscles strengthened and your balance checked. It’s beneficial to exercise to avoid injury, and then potential surgery, too.”
At Menorah Park’s independent living facilities, Bloom said clients have fitness opportunities in every conceivable area.
“People come in from the community to teach different types of exercise and there are people here that teach it too,” she said.
Most of the activities are aerobic-focused classes, including chair exercises. water aerobics, walking, Zumba and “ai chi,” which is like tai chi but in the shallow end of the Peter B. Lewis Aquatic & Therapy Center’s swimming pool. Other opportunities include specialized Parkinson’s disease treatments, back and neck therapy and fall prevention.
“We have a full fitness center, a recreational pool – it’s pretty much like a gym membership,” Bloom said. “I work in the fitness center and a lot of people do this as a continuation of therapy. We also have things like water classes and yoga classes. There are all available to people who live on campus, as well as community members.”
A regular exercise schedule helps seniors establish a routine.
“When we have (residents) scheduled a couple of times a week, and when people get into that schedule, it helps them mentally because they’re accountable for something,” Bloom said. “It’s important for seniors to have a set schedule as they cognitively age. We’re big on working the clients physically, but what it really does for a lot of people is add a big social aspect to their lives. People are coming in at the same time with the same people, so they’re building a community around this activity.”
Bloom added fitness classes can be a senior’s only organic social interaction.
“The added bonus is the exercise,” she said. “If you’re doing something with your friends, then it doesn’t seem like work either.”
Staying fit isn’t only exercising. Bloom said there is an added benefit when a senior eats well, too.
“Eating healthy and doing all those things and listening to your doctor about dietary restrictions is important because it is more than half the battle of healthy aging,” she explained. “It’s important to keep the outside healthy, but the physiology inside plays a large role. It all really ties into it.”
Bloom added seniors don’t tend to eat as well as they should. As seniors exercise, they expend energy. So, employing a regular, balanced diet allows them to get the most out of a workout.
But seniors shouldn’t be left to manage their exercise schedules alone, Bloom said. Families also play a role in making sure they stick to it.
“It takes a village,” she noted. “Our patients are with us for only two to three days a week and that is a small part. So, it’s important to get family, and caregivers, on board with keeping (seniors) physically active. Emotional encouragement also hits a certain spot. This allows them to know their family is encouraging it, making them motivated by their family.”