Senior fitness class takes it slow and makes working out fun

Walk into the Chinese Baptist Church on Beacon and Orcas on a Tuesday or Thursday morning and you will see more than 30 older adults walking joyfully in a large gym. During their laps, they go for about twenty minutes talking with their friends, laughing, swinging their arms and having fun. After they finish walking, the group fills the rest of the hour with other fitness activities.

What are they doing? These seniors have committed themselves to EnhanceFitness, an exercise program designed by researchers at the Univers ity of Washington and Group Health Cooperative. The class at the church was started by a research project at the UW Health Promotion Research Center in 2004 and is presently managed by Senior Services of Seattle/King County.

A member of the church, Herb Tsuchiya volunteered to take the training to become an instructor. Since then six volunteers have participated in the training and the class continues successfully.

EnhanceFitness is an exercise program for older adults. Its goal is to increase the exercise energy of senior citizens with a focus on aerobic activity, strength conditioning, balance and flexibility. The program features group exercise sessions, which also provide the added health benefit of social interaction.

The hallmark of an EnhanceFitness class is a relaxed atmosphere with laughter and conversation in the room. A full hour of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching - the three cornerstones of fitness - make this evidence-based program one of the most effective approaches to physical fitness available to older adults living in the South End. A typical class is held two or three days a week.

Here's the workout :
* A 5-minute warm-up;
* A 20-minute cardiovascular workout that gets participants moving or walking to lively music they choose for themselves;
* A 5-minute cool-down;
* A 20-minute strength-training workout with soft ankle and wrist weights (0-20 lbs);
* A 10-minute stretch (stretching and balancing exercises are also performed throughout the class).

The class is offered to all older adults, including those needing the assistance of a chair.

"This fitness class has helped me. When I occasionally trip or step lower than expected, I recover instantly without a fall. Now I can carry heavy bags from the grocery store to my car and from my car to my apartment without help," said 74-year-old participant Antonio P. "I am pleased to note my posture is straighter and I can walk three miles without becoming tired. I am very happy with the results."

Why take an EnhanceFitness class?

If you can exercise for at least 30 minutes each time, five days a week eventually you'll be rewarded by a boost in energy, lower blood pressure, stronger bones and muscles, better balance and an improved mental outlook. Regular exercise also has been shown to ease the effects of such chronic conditions as arthritis and diabetes and can also stave off dementia.

EnhanceFitness classes are located in many locations in the South End and are offered at different levels of ability as well as ability to pay. Some are free, others have fees, but all have scholarships. Classes are offered at the following locations:
Southeast Seattle Senior Center, 4655 S. Holly Ave.
The Rainier Community Center, 4600 38th Ave. S.
Rainier Health and Fitness, 7722 Rainier Ave. S.
Peter Claver House in the New Holly Community, 7101 38th Ave. S.
Gamelin House in the Rainier Vista Community Center, 4515 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S.
Chinese Baptist Church, 5801 Beacon Ave. S.

For more information, call 302-9086.

Ruth Egger may be reached via[[In-content Ad]]