The benefits of exercising for seniors

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A rowing machine: One senior member of Franciscan Omni Health & Fitness in Schererville staying in shape is Don Watkins, who last year completed Concept2’s Twenty Five Million Meter Club, which means he had rowed 15,532 miles up to that point. | Supplied photo

People are living longer these days. One reason is the advancements in medicine and medical technology. There’s another equally important reason and that is that people are exercising and taking better care of themselves.

Combine that with healthier eating habits and you can see why the age-old adage “You’re only as old as you feel” is as relevant today as it ever was.

When it comes to seniors, they are following the prescribed exercise and eating regimen and leading quality lifestyles that has them looking and feeling years, and in some cases decades, younger than their actual ages.

“The seniors we see in our club are dynamos,” said Jane Bogordos, an exercise physiologist and fitness supervisor at Franciscan Omni Health & Fitness Center in Schererville. “They are in here several days a week and they are looking and feeling fantastic.”

Bogordos said seniors participate in many of the same exercises that people years younger participate in. Seniors simply modify the programs to fit their ability and fitness levels.

“Our seniors are lifting weights and using weight machines for strength-training; they are using treadmills and elliptical machines for cardio-vascular training; and they are swimming and dancing and doing various types of exercises to keep their heart rates up,” Bogordos said.

She said exercise guidelines for seniors include: 150 minutes per week of cardio, which can include walking or aquatics exercises; two or three days a week of strength-training and two to three days a week of flexibility and balance training.

“People tell us all the time how great they feel both while they are exercising and when they are done,” Bogordos said. “They are mentally and physically happier.”

Classes for seniors

As we age, we lose two to three percent of our muscle strength each year.

“Times that by 20 years of inactivity and you can see why older people can break their hip and why older people walk hunched over,” she said. “Arthritis is something people develop as they age, and it can cause a good deal of pain. But exercising lubricates the joints and makes it easier and less painful to move around.

“I’ve always said that exercise is medicine,” Bogordos said. “The more you exercise, the less medicine you need. That definitely is true with high blood pressure and diabetes.”

Aquatics classes are popular with seniors because they elevate the heart rate and provide strength training with minimal impact on the body. Omni also offers an aquatics class developed with the American Arthritis Foundation called H2O Moves. The class is held in Omni’s heated swimming pool. The human body is weightless in water, which does wonders for the joints.

There are also dance classes offered to get the body moving, including the popular Zumba dance class.

“We have seniors here who don’t look, feel or act as though they are seniors. These are the ones who truly believe age is just a number and you are only as old as you feel,” Bogordos said. “These seniors look, act and feel great.”

She said some seniors take their workouts a step further and hire Omni personal trainers.

“Our seniors realize that by staying fit and active, they can significantly improve the quality of their lives,” Bogordos said. “There are four components (activities) to getting and then staying in shape: cardio-vascular, strength training, flexibility and balance.”

Omni offers discounted membership rates for seniors with the only restriction being the hours in which they can use the club, which is open 24 hours a day. For more information of rates and a full schedule of classes and programs, please visit