It was truly a sight to behold! A roomful of seniors working with dumbbells–probably for the first time in their lives. This was the scene at my recent Geri-Fit® exercise class: 60+ year-old “students” excited to begin improving their fitness levels–and me, thrilled to coach them!
Exercise Classes for Seniors
The Geri-Fit® program is a 45-minute evidence-based strength-training exercise class for older adults. Started by fitness professional Fran Fisher more than 20 years ago, the course is available in selected locations across the country. Senior centers, small gyms and retirement centers are among the locales that sponsor the class. I am fortunate to teach in the banquet hall of a local Indian restaurant (Mantra Restaurant) in Temecula, CA, my hometown.
Participants bring their own weights (starting with 2 lb.), a bottle of water and an enthusiastic attitude. The class incorporates stretching, stability and balance training along with “weight lifting.” During the 1-month session (twice weekly meetings), students begin to see improvements in strength, balance, functional capacity and self-confidence. Over the course of several months, many graduate to heavier weights to continue challenging their muscles to become stronger.
Geri-Fit® is is recognized by the National Council on Aging as a program that assists older adults prevent illness and manage chronic physical conditions. Benefits of the strength training classes include:
- increased muscle strength
- reduced risk of falls
- improved ability to perform everyday activities
- increased flexibility
- more energy
Importance of Building Muscles
Although the amount of muscle in our bodies increases throughout childhood and young adulthood, that process begins to reverse in our 30s. This muscle and functional loss is called sarcopenia. People who are physically inactive can lose up to 5% of their muscles per decade. Sarcopenia is associated with diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and loss of strength and mobility–basically our ability to live independently. Fortunately, strength training has been shown to promote muscle building in older adults well into their 80s.
Have you made the decision to take better control of your body’s aging? Share your activities and goals in the area above.