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Alternative Exercises Help to Keep Seniors Healthy

Dec 30, 2015 10:48AM ● Published by Clare Heekin Lynch

We should all know by now that some of the benefits of physical activity include getting fit, gaining strength, and overall help in staying healthy. But as we age, it can be harder for some to perform more traditional exercises, including running, lifting weights and aerobics.

Exercise is vital for good health at any age, and seniors are no exception. In the North Hills, there are numerous groups that offer ‘alternative’ options for the aging population to help them stay active. To be on the safe side, however, make sure to talk to your doctor first before you start a new exercise regimen.

Cranberry Township’s Senior Center, operated by the Butler County Area Agency for Aging (AAoA), provides information and services to help more than 28,000 county residents, ages 60 years and older, remain independent in the community for as long as possible. “We have a daily Walk for Wellness program that promotes indoor and outdoor ‘paths’ for our participants,” said Terrie Walker, Cranberry Senior Center manager. “In addition, we offer a Silver Sneakers cardio program and Silver Sneakers muscle/strength/range of motion class, as well as Zumba gold and yoga stretch sessions.”

According to Walker, the most popular classes are line dancing (for beginners and advanced dancers) and the newly formed Tai Chi classes. “Our line dancers perform in various outlets across the region, including at senior centers and nursing homes,” she said. “We’ve found that the regular participants enjoy the social aspect of the groups. They get out with others, and realize that they, too, can be involved and do the moves. They just have a fun time.” Times and days for the senior center’s programs can be found under the senior center tab on www.cranberrytownship.org.

Another activity growing in popularity for people of all ages is belly dancing (also known as Middle Eastern dancing). “Belly dancing is a really fun way to get in shape and stay in shape,” said local teacher Chris Cramer. “The dance benefits you by using all of the muscles in the body. Outwardly, it helps tone and firm your body, helps you become flexible, improves your posture, gives you stamina, and it will even give your skin a healthier appearance.

“Inwardly, you will become more aware of yourself,” she added. “You’ll learn how to relax by improving your breathing, and you’ll become more energetic as a result of improved blood circulation. Belly dancing also stimulates your metabolism and the processes of digestion, absorption and elimination.”

The beauty of belly dancing is that it can be adapted to benefit students with limited mobility and disabilities. “I try to express to my students that if you can walk, you can dance,” said Cramer. “I had one lady who had had a stroke, and was limited to simple floor movements. She couldn’t understand how to shimmy, so I related the move to the ‘old man shuffle’ that Tim Conway did on The Carol Burnett Show. Then she quickly understood the shimmy!”

Cramer teaches the basic moves and the transition of one move to another, and lets her students take it from there. “I want them to realize that they can make the dance their own and really enjoy it!” she said. The class is offered on Thursday evenings at the Butler YWCA, and Cramer can be reached for more information by emailing suverna@penn.com.

There are many other facilities around the northern region that offers programs to seniors to encourage them to maintain healthy and positive lifestyles, including the Mall Walkers group at Ross Park Mall. Bodytech Gym on Perry Highway, and The Body Bar on both McKnight Road and in Cranberry Mall, offer health education seminars, workout facilities, and other healthy lifestyle plans through Silver Sneakers (www.SilverSneakers.com) and Silver & Fit (www.silverandfit.com) programs.

The Catholic Youth Association offers ‘Some Thing for Every Body’ programs which include line dancing, Tai Chi, cardio for rehab, stretching and weight training classes, yoga, Zumba, and PACE (People with Arthritis Can Exercise). For more information, visit the Services for Seniors tab of their website at www.catholicyouthassociation.com.

Participating in a balanced fitness program for just 30 minutes each day can keep your body strong and limber, thereby reducing the risk of injury. By staying healthy, you can maintain your independence and improve your quality of life. Just remember to start slowly, only do what you are able, and most importantly, stay positive!  

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