Group exercise

Just like your need for a balanced diet of vitamin rich vegetables and fruits, protein, and carbohydrates, your body needs a balanced routine of exercise that includes cardiovascular, strengthening and flexibility. 

Any exercise that raises your heart rate slightly is considered Cardiovascular, such as walking, biking, or swimming. In the Oasis, the Nustep, the treadmill, and the recumbent bike will increase your heart rate. As we age, it is not necessary to push ourselves to the point of being out of breath and heart pounding. Slight perspiration and increased respiration rate is good and still being able to carry a conversation is a sign of exerting enough energy to utilize our hearts and lungs without overdoing. If you do experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness or pain – SLOW DOWN or STOP to rest. 

Strengthening exercises build muscle and endurance. Lifting weights, Upper body and Lower body resistant equipment in the Oasis are strengthening exercises. Noodles and barbells in the water and water walking use resistance to strengthen arms and legs. When exercising, a little soreness is normal, but constant or a sudden sharp pain for more than two hours following exercise may mean “you over did it.” Always begin a new program gradually using lighter weights for a shorter period of time. On the bike or Nustep set the resistance on a lower number for 10-15 minutes. Each week add a few more minutes and increase resistance slightly. 

Woman listening to music while exercising

Exercise classes provide a balanced program for cardio, strength and stretch. Gentle stretching with deep breathing before and after an exercise session restores muscles and helps blood flow to muscles and joints to remove waste products (lactic acid) and bring Oxygen and nutrients to replenish muscle cells. Stretching and a tall glass of water may help prevent muscle cramps. Here is a quick review of the classes we offer here and how they can help keep you fit. Water aerobics and Cardio Move classes provide Cardio, Strength and Stretch. Chair Yoga and Yoga Stretch help with strengthening, stretch, and range of motion (reach and flexibility) 

Always drink water before, during and after exercising. 

Check with your medical doctor before beginning a new exercise program. Begin exercise sessions with 15 minutes three times per week. Gradually work up to 30 minutes five times per week. That is 150 minutes of moderately strenuous exercise each week which is recognized by the Arthritis Foundation, American Heart Association, and Centers for Disease Control for Cardiovascular health and healthy Joints. Visit the Oasis or join a class this week and experience that “good” feeling that comes with exercise. 

The Benefits of Walking for Seniors

couple walking outdoors

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” 

-Henry David Thoreau

Experts have said that walking could be the best exercise for seniors; it’s an effective way to reduce the risk for chronic conditions and improve your overall health. Some of the benefits of walking for seniors include: 

Improves heart health. 

For seniors, walking offers numerous heart health benefits. Getting your heart rate up daily leads to a reduction in the risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and even coronary heart disease. 

Lowers blood sugar. 

After eating, taking a 15-minute walk has been shown to reduce the after-eating spike in blood sugar some seniors can experience. Your body is using blood sugar more effectively to strengthen muscles, and insulin works better, too. 

Reduces pain. 

Studies have shown that walking helps reduce some pain due to chronic conditions like arthritis. Some seniors experience lower back pain, and walking even just three times a week for around 20 minutes can help strengthen abdominal and back muscles to decrease chronic back pain. 

couple walking outdoors

Low participation cost. 

After you’ve invested in a good, sturdy pair of shoes, you can walk basically anywhere-for free! When the weather permits, head to Lake Latimer for a stroll on the walking paths or simply walk around the garden home neighborhood. If it’s too cold or rainy to go outside, take a stroll around the hallways right here at Kirby Pines. 

Promotes social engagement.

man drinking water

Walking offers an easy way for seniors to meet up with others, whether you join a walking group with friends or simply engage with neighbors while out on your daily walk. You can meet new people and enjoy your environment each day. 

Boosts mental health. 

A daily walk can help you feel more positive about life. The endorphins released during physical activity create a sense of well-being, reduce anxiety and boost your mood. 

It’s never too late to start! 

Heart Healthy Tips for This Valentine’s Day & Life!

Couple walking in the snow

Did you know February is American Heart Month? It’s the perfect time to raise awareness about heart disease and share a few heart-healthy tips for seniors. 

1. Follow a heart-healthy diet. Low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, colorful fruits and vegetables are great for your heart. Seniors should get at least five servings per day of these nutrition all-stars. Read all nutrition labels and limit saturated and trans fats and added sugars. Buy plenty of nuts and high-fiber foods. Avoid high-fat dairy or meats and limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Never skip breakfast. 

2. Stay active. Regular physical activity can help you lose excess body weight, improve physical fitness and well-being, and lower your risk for many conditions, including heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Think brisk walking, dancing, or gardening—anything that gets you up and moving instead of sitting for hours every day. 

3. Maintain a healthy weight. The more body fat you have, the more likely you are to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, breathing issues, and certain types of cancer. But losing weight can help to lower many of these levels and improve your overall health. Following a heart-healthy diet and being physically active can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Try some of these additional tips for improving overall health and well-being. 

4. Keep your diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol under control. Two of the major risks for heart disease are high blood pressure, or stiffness of the large arteries which becomes common with age, and high blood cholesterol, which can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries. If these numbers are high, work with your doctors to lower them. 

Couple smiling outdoors

5. Minimize unnecessary stress. Studies show that higher stress levels can trigger a heart attack or angina. Stress can also contribute to high blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors. Chronic stress can affect your memory, learning, immune system, anxiety, and depression, especially as you age. If you’re feeling stressed, especially if you’re caregiving for a loved one, talk about your concerns with a loved one, your primary care physician, or a licensed therapist. Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise, including relaxation techniques like yoga, tai chi, or meditation. 

6. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is key to good health and well-being. It’s an important time to support healthy brain function and maintain general good health, but not enough Americans get the recommended hours of sleep each day. Over time, not getting enough sleep can raise your risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. There are several steps you can take to improve your sleep habits: avoid nicotine and caffeine, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, keep your bedroom quiet and cool and dark. 

The Health Benefits of Exercise in Older Adults

woman lifting weights

Our biology changes as we get older, causing seniors to have different reasons for staying in shape than younger generations. Though physical fitness provides benefits at any age, the health perks physically fit seniors enjoy are more notable. Physicians and researchers say seniors should remain as active as possible, without overexerting one’s self. In older adults, exercise helps you live a longer, healthier, and more joyous life. 

Some of the benefits of exercising later in life include: 

More exercise means more independence for seniors: 
Seniors that exercise regularly are less likely to depend on others. According to Harvard Medical School, regular exercise promotes an older adults ability to walk, bathe, cook, eat, dress, and use the restroom. If self-reliance is a priority, exercise is one of the best ways to maintain independence for older adults. 

Exercise improves balance for older adults: 
Falling down is a much bigger deal for older adults than younger ones. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is admitted to an emergency room for a fall-related injury, and every 19 minutes, a senior dies from a fall, according to the National Council of Aging. Though no two falls are alike, and preventing falls is very complex, regular exercise reduces the likelihood of falling by 23%. 

Regular exercise means more energy: 
Though it seems counter-intuitive, being inactive makes you tired and being active gives you more energy. Any amount of exercise promotes the release of endorphins, which are essential neurotransmitters linked to pain mitigation and a sense of well-being. Endorphins combat stress hormones, promote healthy sleep, and make you feel more lively and energetic, overall. 

man exercising with a rope

Exercise helps prevent and counteract disease: 
Heart disease, osteoporosis, depression and diabetes are common diseases among older adults, and are often deadly. Fortunately, adopting a more active lifestyle can contribute to the prevention of these diseases, or reduce the unpleasant symptoms of these diseases if you already have them. If you are at-risk for disease, exercise may be the key to warding off an unpleasant condition. 

Regular exercise improves brain function: 
One of the most remarkable developments in health science is the revelation that the mind and the body are much more closely linked. A healthy body likely means a healthy mind, and seniors that exercise on a regular basis have improved cognitive health, according to research from NCBI. More recently, a study from the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular exercise has been shown to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia by nearly 50%. 

Get Ready… Get Wet… And GO!

Woman exercising in the pool

Almost everyone, regardless of age or physical condition, can benefit from aquatic exercise – even if you don’t know how to swim! Just being in the water has inherent benefits. From improvements in circulation to relieving joint pain, the rewards of aquatic exercise are numerous. Many physicians and therapists recommend aquatic therapy because it can advance individuals to a higher level of muscle fitness and mobility offering quicker advantages over land-based exercise and therapy: 

Buoyancy provided by the water allows you to move more easily with decreased stress on muscles, joints, and bones while increasing flexibility and balance. In chest-deep water, you take 70% of your body weight off your joints. The “support” your body receives makes exercising easier and less painful, allowing you to exercise longer without increased effort or joint or muscle pain. 

  • Exercises performed in the water allow the heart to work more efficiently, making it a great cardiovascular workout. 
  • The pressure of the water on your joints and muscles comforts your body while you exercise, leaving you feeling less fatigued. 
  • Support provided by the water reduces the fear of falling. 

Resistance of the water allows for higher workout intensities with less impact on your body. 

Warm water therapy has even greater benefits. Our pool in the Oasis is usually at 90º and the spa is at 100º. Besides the comfort of the temperature, immersing in warm water raises your body temperature and relaxes your muscles benefitting individuals with disabilities and conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, and many others. Participating in a warm water exercise class provides many physical benefits: 

Santa clause exercising
  • Improved endurance, flexibility, and range of motion 
  • Improved pulmonary function 
  • Increased circulation 
  • Muscle relaxation and pain relief 
  • Strengthened muscles 
  • Decreased joint and soft tissue inflammation 
  • Improved bone density 

Additionally, warm water exercise can have other benefits including reduced anxiety and stress, improved mood, and fun with friends. 

It is what it is isn’t an excuse!

couple swimming in the pool

“It is what it is.” That’s what people say when a problem arises. It’s an excuse to avoid facing a difficult situation. Too often we just accept our conditions without looking at options that could actually benefit us. Many times we avoid exercise because of the way we think. Here is a list of some of the most common myths about exercise and aging: 

Myth 1: There’s no point to exercising. I’m going to get old anyway. 

Fact: Exercise and strength training help you look and feel younger and stay active longer. Regular physical activity lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity. 

Myth 2: Older people shouldn’t exercise. They should save their strength and rest. 

Fact: Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy for adults over 50. Inactivity often causes older adults to lose the ability to do things on their own and can lead to more hospitalizations, doctor visits, and use of medicines for illnesses. 

Myth 3: Exercise puts me at risk of falling down. 

Fact: Regular exercise, by building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, actually reducing your risk of falling. 

Myth 4: It’s too late. I’m already too old to start exercising. 

Fact: You’re never too old to exercise! If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while, start with light walking and other gentle activities. 

Myth 5: I’m disabled. I can’t exercise sitting down. 

Fact: Chair-bound people face special challenges but can lift light weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics to increase range of motion, improve muscle tone, and promote cardiovascular health. 

couple walking a trail in the fall leaves

At Kirby Pines we have options. We have a variety of exercise classes from chair yoga to water aerobics to strength training. Check our schedule and see what works for you. The Oasis has free weights and 10 different machines to build strength and endurance. Kim Roberts is available Monday and Friday at 8:00 am to help you learn how to use the equipment and start your own exercise program. The Nu-steps and treadmill are just waiting for you to give them a try. Our in-house Rehab Facility Ready for Rehab can also help with issues concerning balance and strength. 

The Serenity Prayer [God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference] reminds me at times we really don’t have to accept, “It is, what it is.” Just maybe “what it is” isn’t what it could be. 

Exercise: The Antidote to Aging

Couple stretching on the floor

“Exercise is an antidote to aging,” says Barry A. Franklin, PhD, director of the cardiac rehabilitation and exercise labs at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI. A well-rounded routine, as part of a healthy lifestyle, may help you avoid things like falls, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Experts say many of the conditions people think are due to getting older have more to do with not moving enough. At any age, these are the types of exercise you want to get: 

woman on a treadmill

Aerobic: good for your heart and lungs. It’s also good for your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, sleep, and memory. What to do: You can walk briskly, walk in the water, or do any other activity that gets your heart rate up. Tip: A Fitbit or Apple watch can help you track your steps and set goals. Challenge yourself to do a little more each week. 

Strength training/Resistance training: This isn’t about becoming a body builder or professional weightlifter. Strength training can help you stay as independent as you want. Do it to keep your muscles and bones strong and help prevent falls and fractures. It can make things like getting around easier. Strength training is just as important as aerobics, Franklin says. It’s the principle of “use it or lose it.” What to do: Start with 2-pound hand weights or resistance stretch bands. 

Flexibility and balance: helps prevent falls by stretching your muscles and keep them from stiffening up. What to do: Yoga stretch and water aerobics are good for both. You can also learn balance exercises in the chair yoga classes. You don’t need to go anywhere to do these or schedule a special time. Fit balance exercises into your daily routine. “You can do exercises like balancing on one foot almost anywhere — while you’re brushing your teeth or doing dishes,” Rogers says. Tip: It helps to have something like a counter to grab onto if you need it. 

How to Keep It Safe: Although exercise is great for you, it’s possible to overdo it. You’re working too hard if you exercise to the point of exhaustion or pain (not just tired legs or soreness). Tip: To stay hydrated while exercising, bring your water bottle. 

Whatever you do, start at a medium pace, where you move a little bit but can still hold a conversation. Aim for 30 minutes a day and build up to that, even if you need to start with just 5 minutes at a time. The risks of exercising are far less than those of sitting on a couch,” says Michael E. Rogers, PhD. director of the Center for Physical Activity and Aging at Wichita State University in Kansas. 

Get involved with one or more of the many exercise classes offered at Kirby Pines. And if you’re unsure about how to use our equipment in the Oasis, see Kim Roberts on Monday and Friday mornings at 8:00 am. She is there to help. 

The Benefits of Walking

feet walking

What’s not to like about walking? It’s free. It’s easy to do, and it’s easy on the joints. And there’s no question that walking is good for you. Walking is an aerobic exercise; a University of Tennessee study found that women who walked had less body fat than those who didn’t walk. It also lowers the risk of blood clots, since the calf acts as a venous pump, contracting and pumping blood from the feet and legs back to the heart, reducing the load on the heart. Walking is good for you in other ways as well. 

Walking improves circulation. It also wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Tennessee found that post-menopausal women who walked just one to two miles a day lowered blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Women who walked 30 minutes a day reduced their risk of stroke by 20 percent – by 40 percent when they stepped up the pace, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. 

Walking shores up your bones. It can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis, according to Michael A. Schwartz, MD, of Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in New York. In fact, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, study of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40 percent. 

Walking lightens mood. A California State University, Long Beach, study showed that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were. Why? Walking releases natural painkilling endorphins to the body – one of the emotional benefits of exercise. 

Walking can lead to weight loss. A brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped. 

Walking strengthens muscles. It tones your leg and abdominal muscles – and even arm muscles if you pump them as you walk. This increases your range of motion, shifting the pressure and weight from your joints and muscles – which are meant to handle weight – helping to lessen arthritis pain 

Walking improves sleep. A study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that women, ages 50 to 75, who took one-hour morning walks, were more likely to relieve insomnia than women who didn’t walk. 

couple walking outdoors with their grandson

Walking supports your joints. The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply. It gets its nutrition from synovial or joint fluid that circulates as we move. Impact that comes from movement or compression, such as walking, “squishes” the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area. If you don’t walk, joints are deprived of life-giving fluid, which can speed deterioration. 

Walking improves your breath. When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products and improve your energy level and the ability to heal. 

Walking slows mental decline. A study of 6,000 women, ages 65 and older, performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that age-related memory decline was lower in those who walked more. The women walking 2.5 miles per day had a 17-percent decline in memory, as opposed to a 25-percent decline in women who walked less than a half-mile per week. A study from the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville found that men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who walked less. 

Walking helps you do more, longer.Aerobic walking and resistance exercise programs may reduce the incidence of disability in the activities of daily living of people who are older than 65 and have symptomatic OA, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management. 

Why Exercise Works

woman exercising in a pool

Much research goes into the “science of exercise” and scientists have realized it doesn’t require long sessions of sweat-breaking exercise to make improvements in your health, endurance, and strength. 

Each session of exercise stimulates some form of change in every body system including countermeasures for the negative effects of arthritis and protection from symptoms of other chronic diseases. The CDC recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate level exercise like brisk walking to benefit your health and help prevent disease. Dr. Zhen Yan, professor of medicine reports that his research shows exercise can prevent and even reverse the damage of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as arthritis. Exercise improves circulation and removes cellular waste which is linked to tissue damage associated with many chronic diseases. Essentially “Exercise takes out the trash.” Exercise reduces levels of proteins in the blood that cause inflammation that results in painful swollen joints, improving function and reducing pain. 

Exercise actually does produce more energy by increasing “organelles” that create energy at the individual cell level especially in the skeletal muscles, improving circulation and empowering brain and muscle cells. So on those days when you feel so-o-o tired, gentle to moderate exercise can boost your energy level. 

Exercise improves balance in several ways: improving communication between joints and brain by increasing the awareness of where the joint is in space. Chair Yoga‘s slow controlled movements promotes “motor learning” improving smooth and precise motions thus improving balance. 

Aerobic exercise (water aerobics) strengthens the heart muscle and keeps the circulation flowing through healthier veins and arteries. Better circulation means better oxygen flow to cells in the brain, organs, and muscles. Also stimulating muscle cells to build stronger fibers helps the heart to pump more powerfully and more efficiently. Keeping arteries and veins more elastic will prevent arterial stiffening that result from unhealthy eating or aging which lowers the risk of heart attack or stroke. 

People doing a yoga class

Weight–bearing exercise (walking) keeps joints healthy: strengthened muscles relieve pressure on supporting tendons and ligaments. In other words, the muscle acts as a natural brace. Strengthening core muscles helps support the back, reducing back pain. Stronger muscles absorb the normal jarring of weight-bearing exercise by nourishing and thickening the cartilage inside the joints. 

Rhythmic exercises (line dancing, NuStep and walking) soothe the nerves while producing natural hormones called endorphins that give a happy feeling which helps relieve depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. 

Prove it for yourself. Join one of the many exercise classes and/or use the equipment in the Oasis available here at Kirby Pines. 

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

– Confucius

10 Tips to Tread Safely

Using the Treadmill with Arthritis

woman on a treadmill

Treadmills seem simple, but they can be hazardous, particularly for people with joint or balance issues. “Trying to catch yourself when you lose your balance can result in muscle strains or injury in almost any joint”, says physical therapist Mary Ann Wilmarth, CEO of Back2Back Physical Therapy in Andover, Mass. 

“Injuries can go all the way up the kinetic chain when people slip and try to recover by catching themselves. This can mean foot injuries, strained or sprained ankles, shoulders and wrists – as well as the back and hips if you’re twisting as you lose balance,” she says. 

You can protect yourself by using these tips to tread more safely. 

  1. Use a full-sized treadmill with side rails. The belt should be at least 22 inches wide and 50 inches long, and the machine should have handrails on both sides you can use for balance. 
  2. Wear sturdy, low-heeled athletic shoes. Soles higher than 1 inch can lead to ankle rollovers. Use the topmost shoelace hole for extra stability. 
  3. Learn the controls. Before you step on, get familiar with how to adjust the speed, incline and especially the red “fast-stop” button. 
  4. Use the safety key. Before you hit start, clip the safety key to your shirt so if you slip, the machine will stop immediately. 
  5. Start, then step on. Hold the rail and stand on either side of the belt as you start it at a low speed. Then step on the belt and increase speed slowly. 
  6. Use a slight incline. An incline of about 2% can reduce impact on the spine, hips, knees, feet and ankles, but a steeper climb increases joint stress. 
  7. Find the right stride. You’ll know it’s on target when you’re walking comfortably – not overstretching your lead leg – with arms swinging freely. 
  8. Look straight ahead. Looking down or around can throw off your balance and cause you to trip. 
  9. Stay centered. Know where you are on the belt and avoid drifting sideways or toward the back of the belt. 
  10. Catch Your Fall: If you start to fall while you’re on the treadmill, hit the emergency stop button. Grasp the rails and move your feet to one side, then step off and sit down until you’ve recovered. 
man holding yoga mat

Use the NuStep as an alternative if you are currently using an aid for balance, such as a cane, walker or wheelchair or having balance issues. You should not attempt to use the treadmill. 

Tomorrow’s Treadmill – One day in the near future, a treadmill that uses sonar technology to automatically adjust its speed to match the pace of the user may be the future of treadmills. But until then, follow these guidelines for safety on the treadmill. 

Never use exercise equipment if you have any questions about how to use it. Exercise is important, but your safety is more important.