According to U.S. News and World Report online, 40 percent of senior citizen women and 30 percent of senior citizen men report never exercising, making seniors the least active of all Americans. Exercise not only provides a safeguard against heart disease, cancers and diabetes but an overall improvement in mental health, even reducing the risk of dementia. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend aerobic exercise, flexibility, balance and weight training in their exercise guidelines geared towards seniors. These guidelines are beneficial in avoiding falls while maintaining strength with the added freedom of mobility.

The good news is, it’s never too late to start. The benefits of starting an exercise regimen even after years of a sedentary lifestyle are too outstanding to be ignored. One should always consult a physician prior to starting any exercise or diet regimen.

The YMCA, located on 300 Ridge Road in McKinney, is a great starting place for seniors looking to workout. Aileen Connor, Membership and Wellness Director at the YMCA, suggests SilverSneakers, an active older adults program offered by the center for senior citizens who are 55 and older. Medicare beneficiaries can even qualify for free membership, which allows access to SilverSneakers classes and their entire facility. Classes are taught by certified trainers who specialize in a variety of fields in sports and exercise.

Seniors require a medical clearance prior to joining the SilverSneakers program. Health safety measures during classes include consistent reminders to stay hydrated and regular monitoring by trainers where participants are asked to rate the level of intensity of their work out on a scale from one to 10. “We have tons of success stories. Many senior citizens tell us how this program has changed their lives by being able to stay active and work out every day,” said Connor. For those wanting to join the program additional information is available online at ymcadallas.org/locations/mckinney, or you can directly contact Aileen Connor via email at aconnor@ymcadallas.org or phone at 972-529-2559.

 

 

McKinney Online

Photo courtesy of the McKinney YMCA

YMCA Silver Sneakers

Another option for seniors looking to start a more active lifestyle is the Senior Center in McKinney located on 1400 S. College Street. Laura Cegelski is the director and can be reached via email at lcegelski@mckinneytexas.org or phone at 972-547-7491. As pointed out by Cegelski, all classes offered at the Senior Center foster active aging and focus specifically on achieving a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Classes emphasize toning, stretching, strengthening and relaxation while balancing the mind, body and spirit. “Finding a class that meets your individual needs is not difficult, no matter where you are as far as physical mobility,” states Cegelski. The instructors at the Senior Center are fully trained in their areas of expertise, whether it is yoga, chair yoga, water exercise, healthy start or personal training. Popular team sports include pickleball and softball. The center also offers Wii bowling and dancing – a great, fun and unconventional form of exercise.

Mary Jane Douglas, a benefits counselor for the North Central Texas Area Agency on Aging, takes two classes offered at the Senior Center - yoga and water aerobics. “With yoga, if you aren’t as limber, you can opt to take the class while seated in a chair. The trainer will show you the same yoga movements, with modifications to fit your needs,” said Douglas. She also noted that water aerobics is perfect for those after surgery. “The classes are a major stress reliever, and after a long day it makes me feel so much better when I walk in the water.

It’s just what I needed all day long.” Victoria Briant is a nationally certified aquatic exercise instructor and has been teaching aquatic exercise classes at the Senior Center for four years. The aquatics program involves not only seniors but certain evening classes are open to anyone over the age of 16, drawing a group with an average age of 45. The daytime classes are geared towards seniors, but there is a wide range of classes for all people. Although costs for classes are reasonably priced, Briant explains that the City of McKinney offers scholarships for those who need it.

 

 

McKinney Online

Photo courtesy of the McKinney Senior Center

The McKinney Senior Center Wii bowling team

“There are many benefits,” she says. “I used to be a couch potato until I discovered water exercise. Unlike other exercise regimens, I enjoyed it so I was inspired to go back and keep doing it.” In fact Briant’s doctor has commended her for doing so, saying it is has really helped her health. Her blood pressure and triglyceride levels have dropped significantly since she started water aerobics. Weight loss is an added benefit that Briant has enjoyed.

Briant adds that there are physical, emotional, neurological and psychological advantages to remaining active as one gets older. “And there is always weight loss depending on how hard you work. In one of my classes you can burn up to 300 calories by the end of 60 minutes.” Water exercise is easy on the joints and the body in general because the water itself supports your body, which is a much needed benefit for those over 50. “There is not as much wear and tear on the body as land exercise.” It also offers joint flexibility, muscle toning and muscle strengthening, which in turn combats all the inertia of being sedentary. Cardiovascular benefits include better circulation and reduced chances of cardiovascular disease. “The soles of your feet are tapping the floor of the pool while you exercise. This act stimulates chemicals in your system that help build bone mass which is great to combat osteoporosis and osteopenia.” Briant also notes that an hour of water aerobics is the equivalent of doing several hours of crossword puzzles as far as brain stimulation. “It builds new The McKinney Senior Center Wii bowling team neurons and new neuropathways because you are making your body do something it isn’t used to doing.”

And then there is always the social element. Music is constantly played during classes, ranging from the 1940s to 2013, keeping the classes at an upbeat pace while motivating its participants. For Briant and her students this is not just exercise, it is a social activity, enabling them to get out, meet new people and build long-lasting friendships. “It’s a joy to see the benefits, not just for yourself, but the people around you. Come by and see the facility – the first aquatics class is free! We love to see more people.” So what are you waiting for? Get up off that couch and check out your nearest gym, YMCA or Senior Center and make your exercise goals a reality.

 

Sherine George works in Marketing and Communications. She enjoys writing and Indian classical dance. She and her husband have two daughters, Ava and Emma.