How to stay active and keep doing the things you love.
Aging is a cultural villain that we spend endless amounts of time, money, and energy trying to prevent. Despite our best efforts, our bodies age, our energy levels wane, and our physical ability declines at a much faster rate when we become sedentary in our retirement years. According to a paper titled “Physical Activity in Older Age: Perspectives for Healthy Aging and Frailty” published in Biogerontology, living an inactive life as we age is just as dangerous to our health as smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity.
Nick Baker, a personal trainer who works with a vibrant group of seniors at Studio573 adds, “Sitting around the house after you retire causes your muscles to deteriorate quickly.”
So, there is a decision to make. Will we creep through our older years with a shorter life expectancy and lower quality of life? Or will we commit to our health, increase precious time with our loved ones, and enjoy an active life as we age?
In one of Nick’s training groups at Studio573, three of his “healthy seniors,” as he calls them, have most certainly opted for the latter.
Catherine Haake, 86, and Cecilia Hentges, 71, faithfully arrive at their personal training sessions with Nick every Monday and Wednesday and have done so for the past four years. Their workouts last 30 minutes and are designed to build strength, flexibility, and balance. On days they aren’t in the gym, they stay active by walking and working in their gardens when it’s warm.
To many of us, the idea of maintaining a consistent exercise regimen can seem monotonous at best and frightening at worst. Catherine, however, has a different perspective.
“Exercising every day makes me feel good and allows me to keep doing the things I want to be doing,” Catherine says. But working around her home isn’t the only thing vying for Catherine’s attention — she also has grandchildren to play with and keep her busy.
Though she is several years younger, Cecilia’s motivation is similar. “I exercise to maintain my health and to be able to keep doing the things I enjoy, like gardening, cooking, and canning,” Cecelia says. “Last week alone, I put up 300 pints of vegetables!”
Gary Schell, 76, joined the conversation, offering a more critical perspective. Several years ago, while watching his wife fight a nasty battle with cancer, he was captivated by the healing effects that regular physical activity had not only on her body, but also on her mind and spirit. Even after overcoming the disease, she continues her regular routine of 30 minutes of cardio each day.
Father Louis Nelen is one of the newer members of Nick’s group. With goals to build stamina and maintain physical health, he began exercising regularly several months ago.
“As a priest, it’s necessary to take care of myself in order to provide the best possible service to my parish and diocese,” Louis says. “After six months of working out, I definitely notice the benefits of having more energy throughout the day.”
At first, Louis found it difficult to stay consistent with his workouts, but Nick helped him find a way to get to the gym twice a week.
“Meeting with a personal trainer keeps me accountable,” Louis says. “That’s probably one of the most important things for a lot of us when it comes to sticking with an exercise program.”
Regardless of why a client comes to see Nick, he enjoys identifying the roadblocks that have held people — especially seniors — back in the past. Some common concerns Nick sees include:
The first worry that deters seniors is that the workout intensity will be unachievable or overwhelming.
“You are capable of more than you think, but you have to start where you are,” Nick says.
“You are capable of more than you think, but you have to start where you are.”Nick Baker
When customizing a workout, Nick starts at an intensity within your reach and gradually intensifies the moves as you build strength and flexibility. A typical program involves working out two to three times a week for 30 minutes. Nick also specializes in guiding you through one exercise for each muscle group.
Another anxiety seniors face is the risk of getting hurt. Nick closely monitors each client during workouts and insists on proper form to protect from injury. Functional movements that support balance to prevent falls in everyday activities are also incorporated. As your strength and flexibility build over time, the chances of injury dramatically decrease.
Gyms can be scary — this is no lie. However, a personal trainer can teach you about the equipment you’ll use and help you understand how to execute each move correctly. When training at Studio573, Nick strives to remove intimidation and make the gym experience as comfortable as possible.
According to Nick, the financial commitment can be another hurdle.
“Many of my clients opt for group training sessions with a friend to split the cost and add accountability,” Nick says. “This makes the investment easier to handle without sacrificing the benefit of a personal trainer.”
Though it may seem a little frightening, staying healthy and active is the best way to ease into your golden years. The increase in mood, balance, and overall health is undeniable. With a trained professional in your corner — and maybe even a friend or two — you’ll be on your way to many happy, healthy years. It’s never too late to start!