Senior fitness

As people age, they need to emphasize care of their mind and body.

When it comes to fitness, Michael Groesch, a physical therapist at the Peter B. Lewis Aquatics Center of Menorah Park, and Merry Petroski, life enrichment director at Windsor Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care, both in Beachwood, said maintaining a physically fit body is a big part of healthy aging.

“Exercise is an important part of your overall health at any age, but even more so as you age,” Groesch said. “As we age past 50 years, our bodies start to lose about 1% to 2% of muscle mass per year. It’s not all bad news, you can still gain strength and muscle mass at any age.”

Petroski said, “Staying active helps us stay satisfied with our lives. Getting outside, getting into the sunshine and fresh air helps us feel better physically, emotionally and mentally. It is the same for senior citizens.”

As health issues become part of an aging individual’s daily life, Groesch said keeping a fit body helps reduce those risks. He suggests a weekly routine.

“Working on your strength and balance becomes even more important as you age,” he noted. “There is an endless amount of exercises that you can choose from that help you improve no matter what your fitness level is or what obstacles you face. One thing you can do to begin improving your strength and balance today is to begin a walking program. If you’re not sure where to start, there are some great resources online to help you get started.”

Another option is signing up for a virtual fitness class like yoga, which Groesch said promotes body awareness, relaxation, flexibility and breathing.

But keeping fit doesn’t have to be complex. If someone isn’t interested in starting a program or logging on to participate in online classes, Petroski said many activities can be done at home. Other activities residents at Windsor Heights do include marching in place, making circles with arms and legs, chair yoga and even the use of virtual reality equipment.

“Perhaps we love to complicate things in life as we automatically picture all this equipment and intense exercises, but (at Windsor Heights) we start the day with a class called ‘Focus on Fitness,’” she said. “We talk about the fact you can get a very good workout without equipment just using your body weight and the resistance you can get from just doing leg lifts and reaches.”

Petroski said fitness isn’t just about muscle building and burning calories, especially for aging adults. It is important to focus on the range of motion and flexibility, too.

“Keeping our muscles strong and maintaining a full range of motion makes us at less of a risk for falling,” she noted. “Muscle strength helps us lessen that risk.”

At Menorah Park, Groesch said residents have full access to the Peter B. Lewis Aquatic & Therapy Center, where a variety of services are offered – and not just to residents. The facility also offers independent memberships to community members.

“Our members have access to warm water pools that are a great way to get back to exercising with less pain,” he noted. “The pool is also a great place to work on your balance because of the density of water.”

And exercising doesn’t have to be done alone, even if one is social distancing. Both Petroski and Groesch said there are benefits to having a workout buddy you can connect with, either virtually or in-person.

“It also helps ... your physical activity by having a family member or close friend join you on your fitness journey,” Groesch said. “Nothing helps keep you more motivated and on track than a teammate.”

Petroski added, “And check in at the end of the day. Checking in is very important. We’re all very tense right now and we need to stay in contact with each other, and (remember) that this is going to end eventually. Being able to reach out to a buddy is key to making the best out of any situation.”

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