Seniors Functional Fitness
Hear from our Seniors in our recent article from the Union Newspaper.
At the age of 77, Vincent Murphy started to notice little changes as he went about his daily chores in his Lake Wildwood home.
“Occasionally I’d miss a step or lose my balance,” he said. “It got me worrying about the ravages of age.”
Murphy decided it was time to get back in shape, so he began researching various options. He settled on a “Seniors Functional Fitness” class taught by Hannah Acosta, a CrossFit trainer at CrossFit Pick Axe in Grass Valley. He was attracted to the broad spectrum of exercises, not just lifting weights and walking endlessly on a treadmill.
A longtime professional caregiver, Acosta was all too familiar with the quick downhill slide many seniors experience once they cease to be active.
“In my job, the biggest reason I am called in to help is when an elderly person can no longer walk — they can’t get out of a chair or get themselves to the toilet,” she said. “I saw a need in the community to help seniors because I understand their challenges. This has become a passion for me.”
Based loosely on the CrossFit model but modified for seniors, routine exercises include the use of rowing machines, foot coordination drills, squats, burpees and light weights.
“People come in having had hip and knee replacements or struggling with arthritis, psoriasis, osteoporosis, vertigo, limited range of motion and mild dementia,” said Acosta. “Exercises are geared toward challenges faced at home, such as getting back up off the floor if you’ve fallen, getting that heavy object out of an overhead cabinet, navigating uneven pavement or carrying the groceries and cat food in from the car. My goal is to help students with mobility.”
After just two months of workouts twice a week, Murphy says he feels stronger, has more energy and no longer struggles to open the pickle jar. His only complaint is that the fitness class is only offered two days a week.
‘SO THANKFUL FOR THIS CLASS’
At the age of 85, student Al Regennitter said he used to shuffle when he walked and spent much of his days on the couch after his wife died. But his outlook on life has completely changed during the 16 months he’s been working out with Acosta.
“I’m so thankful for this class,” he said. “If not for this gym I’d probably be in a nursing home. I want to encourage elderly people to just come in and give it a try.”
“The most terrifying part is actually walking through the door for the first time,” said Acosta. “After that, students realize that there is no pressure — I work individually with each person to find their comfort level. Classes are small. This is really about just reminding the body that it can do things. If someone is nervous, they’re welcome to come in, watch a class and get to know me. My goal is to help you live your best life. Exercises are based on everyday movements.”
One student in his early 80s used to consistently come to class with a cane, said Acosta. As he got stronger, he would often forget his cane at class and that’s when Acosta knew he was improving.
“Today he doesn’t use a cane at all,” she said. “He recently played in a golf tournament.”
Studies have clearly shown that regular exercise among the elderly can lower the risk of chronic disease, extend one’s lifespan, increase energy and strength, relieve anxiety and boost mental alertness.
So why aren’t more seniors out exercising?
That’s what Murphy wants to know.
“I recently took a long walk with my great granddaughter and she ran ahead of me up a hill,” he said. “I actually ran to catch up. I wouldn’t have done that three months ago — I wouldn’t have even walked up that hill. I lost my wife last year — this class has been part of my re-entry into life.”