More ‘mature’ health-conscious seek fitness solutionsA look at boomer-friendly fitness courses offered in Grand Forks.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
Sue Hafner probably understands, better than most, the importance of regular exercise for good health.
She worked for 38 years as a pediatric nurse practitioner for Altru Health System in Grand Forks before retiring in November.
“People need to live healthier,” she said as she prepared to join 18 others gathered for the “Fun and Fit” class recently at Choice Health and Fitness in Grand Forks.
She admits that, while she was working, she “was probably a little negligent” about exercise.
“You come home from work at the end of the day, you’re just too tired.”
But that has changed. Now, she starts her day at Choice, “8 a.m., every five days a week,” she said.
“I do this on Tuesday and Thursday, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’m in the pool. I walk against the current and swim laps.”
The class draws “mature” people — not a single, 20-something among them. Because of overcrowding, it was moved to a larger room on the second floor, said Brenda Gjelsness, senior adviser and the course instructor.
“Keeping everybody active, that’s the main thing,” she said.
Since starting the exercise program two months ago, Hafner’s noticed she has more energy.
“It’s a great way to start the day.”
Her husband, Duane Hafner, is also on the exercise bandwagon, she said, and uses the elliptical machine and treadmill and lifts weights.
He retired in 2011 after a 44-year career with Nodak Electric Cooperative in Grand Forks.
Committing to fitness
The couple is part of the “baby-boom generation,” a massive bubble of the population, born in the 20 years after World War II, that’s wending through the life cycle and redefining what it means to age.
Reinvigoration is on their agenda. And they are not alone.
On a recent Thursday morning, Choice was teaming with older people, suited up and fully engaged in activities to maintain or recover their health.
What’s more, they seemed to be enjoying it.
“It just feels good,” said Carol Tweten of Grand Forks, the mother of Cam Tweten who runs the facility. “You just feel rejuvenated.”
She’s here for the first time, taking part in a Silver Sneakers class that her son recommended to improve her health after two hip replacement surgeries.
“This is something I can do,” she said as the class ended. She managed most of the exercises from a seated position, her walker nearby.
“The last time I exercised was about ten years ago, before I had hip surgery. It seems like it’s going to work out good. I really enjoyed it.”
Her friend Mary Asleson of Grand Forks also encouraged her.
“If nothing else, it gets your energy up,” she told Tweten.
Asleson started taking Silver Sneakers classes nine years ago, after having cancer surgery, she said. “The exercises were easy to do. And Brenda is a dynamo.”
She also takes a yoga class and walks.
“The thing about Brenda’s classes is, they’re always different. She keeps it interesting.”
Bev Skelly of Grand Forks said membership in a fitness center was part of a Medicare supplement she purchased about six years ago.
“I thought, ‘why not?’”
Exercise had not been part of her lifestyle “since I was a junior in high school,” she said.
“I’ve met a lot of people. I’ve enjoyed it.”
She also keeps busy volunteering 40 to 50 hours a month for the senior citizens center, humane society, American Association of Retired Persons and her church.
Motivated by group
Working out with a group is a bonus, said Deb Lloyd of Grand Forks as the Fun and Fit class ended.
“It’s fun to be in a class, and doing this as a group activity, although you could do it alone.”
Lloyd tries to stay as fit as she can, she said. “I think it’s key to longevity and quality of life.”
She and her husband, Gary Lloyd, have been regulars at Choice since it opened in September, although they have long been committed to physical fitness especially by walking, biking and playing golf.
“We try to walk three miles a day,” she said, “every day that we can.”
She also pays attention to eating healthy.
“I’ve always cared about good eating,” she said. “I don’t like the word ‘diet.’”
Strength for daily activity
Fitness classes for older adults include the use of weights and stretch bands for muscle-building, muscle-toning and resistance, Gjelsness said.
“You want to keep the core muscles strong. That helps with endurance for activities like shoveling the sidewalk and reaching to the top shelf.”
She integrates that message into her routines — “stretch around to the back like you’re checking as you pull out of a parking spot at Hugo’s” — to reinforce why these muscles are so important.
She also focuses on exercises that promote good balance by having her students rise on their toes, lift high and rotate their arms — all in rhythm to energizing music that inspires movement.
“You need to keep those abdominals (muscles) strong in your core.”
She and other instructors are specially trained to avoid any movements that are unsuitable for people with certain health concerns, such as not raising their arms too high if they have a heart condition.
In addition to Silver Sneakers and Fun and Fit classes, Gjelsness recommends older adults take a class called MSROM, or muscle strength and range of motion, especially for anyone who’s had surgery on the shoulder, knee or hip.
She also challenged each of her classes to take at least one water aerobics class this year.
“Once you get into the water, it’s an amazing workout,” she said. “It’s so good to try different things.”
Fun and variety
The most important tools Gjelsness uses to encourage people to start and stay with exercise are pretty simple.
“Make it fun,” she said. “It’s got to be enjoyable for them, so they don’t feel like they’re exercising.”
Second, she changes the elements in her routines and suggests people take a variety of classes, “so, you’re not doing the same thing all the time,” she said. “That’s good for you and for your muscles.”
Gjelsness sees the fitness center as promoting physical health and social and mental well-being.
“The three components all work together,” she said.
A member of the Silver Sneakers class, Annette Risky, of Warsaw, N.D., who has a heart condition, agrees. She takes the class twice a week, but has been active in Silver Sneakers at other locations for 11 years, she said.
She enjoys exercising at Choice because of “the social part of it too,” which is just as valuable as the physical benefits.
“Seniors sometimes say, ‘Oh, I can’t do that anymore,” Gjelsness said. “They’re thinking about exercise as jumping around. But I ask them if they can tap their feet.
“These exercises are designed for them and they’re safe for them. We’ve taken out all that high impact.
“I tell them ‘this exercise is appropriate for your level and modified especially for you.’ That gives them a sense of self confidence.”
Taking the first step is key, she said, no matter how small.
“Everyone needs to be active. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at. Even if you can only walk once around the track, do that. Maybe, next time you can do more.”
Call Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1107; or send e-mail to email@example.com.