An older man with white hair and trim muscles, using weights to do bicep curls exercise from a chair.

What, Me Exercise?

I’m now 70 years old and quite a bit fitter than I was 5 years ago. I had a rewarding career for 40 years and retired at 65 with my wife. I live on the gulf coast near the Gulf of Mexico. I thought I would play golf, go fishing and visit the beach frequently. I did do these things but it is a dramatic transition to go from a high energy and often stressful line of work to a leisure lifestyle. I’m not complaining, I love retirement and the freedom it allows.

Slower pace and eating more

I did, however, begin to put on some weight. What did I do? I went and bought a gym membership at our local YMCA. I was a procrastinator though, I steadfastly paid my monthly dues but never went near the place for the better part of a year! (Yeah, I know...sheesh.) I was finally inspired to join an exercise class by a good friend and neighbor. I should add that I was sedentary except for yard work and walking the dog for several years. I was somewhat daunted about starting an exercise regimen, but thanks to a little friendly peer pressure, I finally did start.

Silver Sneakers health and fitness program

First, this is an easy class to follow with vision loss! The instructor is on a small stage in front of the class with a wall to wall mirror behind them. You can view the instructor front on or in a reflection off the mirror. You can also peripherally see your fellow exercise people right next to you and copy what they are doing. No one has to struggle to keep up with the routines because everyone works at their own pace. Resting as needed is encouraged. The age ranges are from 65 to some in their 90’s! The instructor and your classmates are accommodating to your visual and physical impairments.

This is a wonderful program offered at national gyms and local community centers throughout the country. As the name implies it’s for us senior folks. My local YMCA offers 5 classes a week at various times, so it is quite convenient. Each class is about 55 minutes long.

What happens in a class?

First you gather your equipment

A metal cushioned chair, an exercise band (like a big rubber band with handles and each color is a different tension), a pair of dumbbells (various weights are available from 2 lbs to as heavy as you want to go), and finally, a small softball-size inflated rubber ball. Then go to your station, a spot on the floor about 10 square feet. Everyone is separated so we don’t trip over each other and whatnot. We have as few as 10 and as many as 40 people per class.

Warm-up for us "Silvers"

The trained instructor starts a music playlist and what follows is a highly structured, safe class. Typically we begin with high stepping in place to the beat of the music following the instructor. They will alter the steps for variety but this is not as “dance-like” as Zumba or others. It’s for us “Silvers” ya know. This activity warms us up and then we begin some stretching and loosening up.

Reistance bands, weights, and balance drills

Next, we start using resistance bands in various different ways. Then it’s time to use the dumbbells, for curls, lats, flies, squats, etc. After that, the rubber ball is used for balance and coordination drills.

Cool down

Whew! We made it!  Now it’s time for the best part. The cool down, we all sit in the chairs and do stretches and loosening up by mimicking what the instructor is doing. We also do special breathing and close with the lights dimmed down and to soft music, followed by a period of eyes closed, guided meditation of sorts.

An easy way to reintroduce yourself to fitness

This class is low key and done at your own pace. It covers areas such as flexibility, balance, strength and cardio. It is a safe and effective introduction to a serious exercise regimen. I have since gone on to more intense workouts like the Les Mills Body Pump classes, and am starting a new core workout class.

Don’t be afraid to try it, it is an easy-peasy way to reintroduce yourself to fitness. You totally work at your own pace and it is structured and designed for seniors. It can lower your blood pressure and pulse rate. It is good for your circulation and helps you sleep more soundly. An added perk is the social aspect, I’ve met new friends and had a lot of fun with this. I hope you’ll give it a try.

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