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Fitness is important at every age

By John Hollis, Appeal-Democrat, Marysville, Calif.

March 06–“When I miss a class, I feel ugly. I don’t feel natural if I don’t come to exercise,” said Kathy Trinklein, 62, of Yuba City.

That’s a great attitude to have because one of the biggest hurdles to a healthy senior lifestyle is becoming sedentary, said Dr. William Hoffman, Sutter Medical Foundation’s chief medical officer. “(Seniors) sometimes sit at home and not engage in outside activities.”

Exercise is important for everyone, he wrote in an e-mail interview. He said that seniors do particularly well if they exercise on a regular basis — every-other day, exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, which is just what Trinklein loves to do.

But it’s more than just feeling good. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals tCopyright (c) 2011, Appeal-Democrat, Marysville, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

hat can leave a person feeling happier and more relaxed than before they worked out, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

It’s not just physical exercise that’s important: A healthy senior also needs social interaction and good eating habits.

Social interaction is one of the keys for a healthier senior lifestyle. Being active with other members of the community, family and friends will keep seniors engaged in life, Hoffman wrote.

“Diet is important for all of us, but it is important particularly for seniors who are more prone to chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, etc.,” he explained.

To meet the first “need,” the Yuba City Senior Center holds various exercise classes, including Fit Ball, Morning Yoga, Body Toning and Fitness After 50.

While it’s not “Hell Week,” Fit Ball classes do give participants a good workout. Fitness instructor Beth Boucher, 58, said she gets her students up and moving for the hourlong class with lively music followed by stretching and working with the ball — with and without weights.

“Fit Ball is all about flexibility, stretching and some weight bearing,” she explained. “The unique thing about the ball is that it forces people to exercise their full range of motion.”

She said that exercise balls work well because participants have to sit up straight, “and that’s good for your core.”

After completing their stretching and warm-ups, the class members move on to the various ball exercises, including the bridge, which strengthens the lower back and works the buttock muscles; the squat against the wall, which works on the leg and buttock muscles and improves flexibility in the lower back and hips; and the chest press, where the participant, while balancing his or her shoulders on the ball, lifts small hand weights.

“The class is important to me because I can do walking at home, but here I get the strength training, flexibility and the weights,” said Jan Seger, 77, of Yuba City.

Seger said she’s been coming to exercise classes at the center twice a week since 2003. “I come for the exercise, which is important for me because I have a heart condition. When I miss (a class), I feel guilty.”

The Fit Ball class is a good fit for a wide range of ages and abilities because participants can work at their own level by varying the speed and intensity of the workout, Boucher explained.

The final link for good senior heath is diet, which can be a challenge, especially if you are only cooking for one, Dr. Hoffman wrote. “Fortunately, there are many choices at our grocery stores where nutritional meals can be purchased for the single senior. However, when seniors go out to dinner, it’s always a challenge since most dinners are high in salt and carbohydrates, which are not always their best choices.”

Both the Yuba City and Yuba County senior centers are important links for healthy seniors because they can get a good meal there and are able to socialize. Each center serves well-balanced lunches at a nominal fee daily.

While regular exercise can help control your weight, reduce the risk of heart disease and strengthen bones and muscles, if a person hasn’t exercised for some time or they have health concerns, he or she should talk to a doctor before starting an exercise routine.

“It is important for all of us to have diverse interests, not just a single interest in our current occupation,” Dr. Hoffman wrote. “When we retire, we need to replace our employed time with other activities that will keep us engaged and focus our minds.

“The happiest seniors I see are the ones who say, ‘I do not know how I was able to work since I am so busy now that I’m retired.'”

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