Ever wonder how some people remain active and sharp well into their 80s, 90s and above? Though heredity plays a major role, there are ways to take the health of your body and mind into your own hands, including exercising for longevity.

Exercise benefits people of any age; for seniors, it’s crucial. Regular exercise can help control body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, may reduce hardening of the arteries, and lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. To help fight osteoporosis, exercise strengthens muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. A strong and limber body may help increase balance, prevent injury, foster a more active lifestyle and preserve independence, according to AARP. 

Lifting items, climbing stairs and something as routine as rising out of a chair all require muscle strength; even small increases in that strength can enhance day-to-day activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people older than 65 participate in activities that work all major muscle groups two or more days a week.

Local seniors can join a program designed for them through their local park district. The Munster Parks and Recreation Department, for example, offers a dues-based Keenager membership that offers programs for those 50 and older. Recreation supervisor Danielle Volk said the Keenager program offers chair yoga sessions that focus on breath and body awareness and invokes Qigong (pronounced “chee gong”), ancient Chinese healing exercises and techniques.

Munster Parks also partners with Community Hospital Fitness Pointe in Munster for aqua boot camp and aqua Pilates classes. “Chair yoga is good for limited mobility and balance,” Volk said. “Aqua boot camp focuses on aerobics and toning, and aqua Pilates are low impact, take pressure off the joints and increase core strength.” For more information, call 219-836-7275 (PARK) or visit munster.org.

The Southlake YMCA in Crown Point serves more than 200 active adult members. Active Older Adults Director Deb Kolloway runs senior exercise classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, including Senior Boot Camp at 7:30 a.m., the Joyful Joints aqua class at 8 a.m. and Slimnastics at 10:30 a.m. “Cross-training is important: We offer gentle yoga two days a week, and we incorporate balance exercises in all of our classes. On Fridays, we do ‘Dancing with Debbie’ and the class loves it!” Kolloway said. “Exercise keeps the mind clear, keeps joints flexible and keeps everyday tasks manageable.”

She has been working with the seniors for 29 years, and some have attended that long. “They’re like family to me,” she said. “I tell them the reason they are still able to come is that the exercise has kept them young and healthy.” Get more information at 219-663-5810 or visit slymca.org.

Fitness Pointe also offers Functional Living Exercises for Everyone, designed to develop the muscles of older adults so they can more easily and safely perform everyday tasks. “There are more than 80 million adults in the U.S. age 55 and over who are interested in working out for their health and keeping fit," said program supervisor Nikki Sarkisian. "These aging adults have specialized needs and require specific training, coaching and conditioning to ensure that they achieve results without increased risk of injury.”

The FLEE class is free to Fitness Pointe members and available to nonmembers through the Class Pass program. Call Fitness Pointe at 219-924-5348 or visit comhs.org.

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