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Making Group Exercise Work For You

We all know exercise is good for us.

The benefits are numerous – weight control, reduced risk of heart disease and improved mental health, for starters.

It’s the closest thing we have to a medical magic bullet, and it’s particularly important for healthy aging.

However, “knowing” and “doing” can be two different things. When it comes to exercise, a little motivation goes a long way.

For those of us who require a gentle push in the right direction, group exercise offers a fun and social way to do the right thing for our minds and our bodies.

With the pandemic bringing changes in the way we interact with others – at least temporarily – seniors are looking for safe ways to gather together to get their sweat on.

There are also online options for those staying closer to home.

TIME FOR THE GYM? Seniors have been returning to The Health Zone at Saint Francis for individual exercise while taking social distancing precautions, according to Health and Wellness Coordinator Jennifer Daley.

“Because we are a medically-based fitness facility, they have the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge of our staff as well as the ability of our staff to direct them in many ways to safely exercise,” Daley said.

“Research shows that exercise, in general, helps boost our immune systems, can help minimize the effects of different viruses and diseases and can help in our recovery when we do we get sick,” she said. “It’s very important that seniors find a way to continue to move their bodies.”

WHY EXERCISE? Without a doubt, exercise can help seniors maintain their independence longer,

whether the goal is remaining in one’s own home, or simply living as full a life as possible.

Many studies show that physical inactivity is a major contributor to mortality.

Studies also show that regular exercise helps reverse some effects of chronic disease and improves mental and physical functioning,

with the result of keeping older people mobile and independent.

“Exercise is good for maintaining strength and balance to help reduce the chance of falls and to help keep seniors mobile,” agreed Katie Cody,

physical therapist with LIFE PACE, a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly and an affiliate of LIFE Senior Services.

“This helps with activities inside and outside the home, with family, going to church and those kinds of things.

It helps maintain and improve the quality of life.” “Motion is lotion, so movement is important at any age.

If you don’t use it, you lose it. These are the things I like to tell my classes,” said Brooke Rusher,

aquatic and therapeutic exercise specialist at Ascension St.

John Health Club in Tulsa. “It’s important as we age to stay active so we can do the activities of daily living without assistance.”

ADVANTAGES OF GROUP EXERCISE The social aspect of group exercise has its own benefits. It can help ease feelings of isolation and create connections. It can also be a source of motivation.

“Any type of group exercise is beneficial because you have other people that are also doing it, so you’re pushing yourself a little bit more than you would by yourself,” Cody explained.

“You also have the benefit of socialization. As you get older, you might have friends that have passed away, or people aren’t as close, and you can become isolated.”

Rusher has witnessed the benefits first-hand in the classes she leads. Aquatic exercise is one of her passion.

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