Elder exercise

Volunteers are getting ready to host senior exercise classes which have shown to increase bone density.

On Monday, eight volunteers attended a training session at Southfield Wellness Community with Leah Feltz, local fitness instructor, in preparation to teach classes for the Balance, Agility, Strength, Endurance (BASE) Fitness Senior Exercise Program. The community exercise classes aim to improve the overall health and wellbeing of participants. Feltz is training the volunteers to teach exercises that focus on functional movement, balance, strength and cardio.

“As you age, you don’t always get your heart rate up often,” Feltz said. “It will be keeping people in a safe zone, but will help them to do things a little outside of their normal daily life and in doing so, building muscles, building calcium up in bones, all those beneficial things.”

The classes have shown to benefit seniors who participate.Becky Koppen, volunteer coordinator for Central Iowa RSVP in Hamilton County, said those who took part in classes in Vermont saw a 2.5 to 2.6 percent increase in bone density for each year they attended the class. That increase can be very significant for seniors who are at risk for osteoporosis because treatment for injuries stemming from the disease can cost about $90,000, according to Koppen. However, she said simple exercises can help prevent or reverse osteoporosis.

“It’s not a really hard workout. It’s more strengthening, gentle, low-impact, yet very effective,” Koppen said.

Volunteers are still training and no dates have been set yet for the classes. Before they begin, Koppen said she wants to host a health fair. At the fair, she said those interested in attending the classes will be able to determine a baseline of their overall health with tests including range of motion, balance, blood pressure, weight and body mass index. Then, those who participate will be able to see how the class affects them over time.

Four locations are being looked at to host the classes. Koppen said that includes the Senior Center, Fuller hall, Southfield Wellness Community and All Cultures Equal. The classes will likely be held twice a week at each location. The classes are free to all people age 55 and older. Those who attend classes at the Senior Center and All Cultures Equal will have to purchase their own hand weights.

Nutrition is another component of health that the program addresses. When the fitness classes begin, Koppen said she is also looking to host a monthly nutrition class. Both the fitness and nutrition aspects of the program, according to Koppen, are more easily taken up in a regular group setting.

“Without an established program and without others to be accountable to, it’s much harder to do. But, when you’ve got a plan and you’ve got a place to be, it’s so much better,” Koppen said.

She said the program ties well into the goals of the Healthy Hamilton Coalition as the class encourages people to take ownership of their health, take inventory of their physical condition and take action to improve themselves.

Koppen said signup information will be made public when volunteers finish their training. She can be contacted at her office at 832-2525.