By Nancy Gilkey
Northeast Community Center member
The Academy of Royal Colleges published a comprehensive report in February, 2015 proclaiming that exercise is the miracle cure. In fact, in the report’s forward, written by the chair of the academy, Professor Dame Sue Bailey, it stated that if exercise were considered a drug, she would classify it as a wonder drug. Recognizing the tremendous benefits that physical activity plays in a person’s health, the Northeast Community Center has made a point to offer fitness classes to suit everyone, including the senior community.
Many seniors feel uncomfortable and ill-suited for the rigors that exercise clubs and classes demand of participants. Lacking the confidence and/or physical stamina to participate in most fitness clubs’ offerings, aging members of the community not only miss the opportunity to manage their long-term diseases but also to avoid many other common conditions.
Recognizing the need for appropriate and effective senior fitness classes, NECC has gone even further with its offerings by also providing therapeutic instruction for those suffering from arthritis and Parkinson’s diseases. Three days a week in a warm-water pool, Joints in Motion offers those with arthritis the opportunity to “move every joint in every direction,” explained instructor Otter Annason. “It’s not intended as a muscle-developing or aerobic activity, and there is no extra resistance or strain on the joints.”
Otter noted that those classes are available if people are pursuing those goals. Rather, Joints in Motion is meant to help arthritis sufferers walk more easily or feel more confident with their balance.
“Just about everyone tells me over time that it improves the way they feel about their joints,” said Annason. He added that the water’s buoyancy supports a person’s mass and has an auto-massaging effect.
Meanwhile, on dry land, the NECC offers a Parkinson’s exercise class twice a week.
Instructors Bree Moore and Tony Cibik provide a format that allows participants to focus on muscle strength, endurance, and balance, while emphasizing practical concepts like fall prevention and increased facial and vocal expression. Utilizing the core principles in Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery the class allows participants to address the various ways that Parkinson’s affects individuals and their loved ones.
“Everyone presents differently” with this disease, Moore pointed out. Some people need help working with tremors, while others want to work on memory response or multi-tasking.
“We break down the steps class members need for effectively moving from sitting to a standing pose,” Moore said.
Like the Academy of Royal Colleges, Cibik agrees with the idea that medications come and go but that exercise is forever. Both instructors feel passionately about the importance of these classes, and their enthusiasm is evident in those taking the class. Participants who were recently leaving a class commented that they’d been worked hard that day but that they wouldn’t want to miss the next class.
Whether classes are designed to benefit sufferers of a particular disease or just for the benefit of people who wish to be with peers of a similar age, mobility, or intensity, NECC offers a wide range of group instruction. Other offerings include water fitness classes in the warm water pool, yoga, and Tai Chi-Moving for Better Balance.
Long-time NECC member Argentina Erdman believes the Tai Chi class has particularly helped her post-stroke.
“It gives me a sense of security, especially in asymmetrical situations, like when I’m on one foot,” she said. With the controlled movement, the Tai Chi instructor recognizes that whether participants are currently suffering or recovering from a medical condition, Tai Chi improves everyone’s focus and discipline.