With COVID-19 vaccination rates on the rise, everyone is starting to return to the activities they missed most, including group exercise with their friends. This time is especially exciting for seniors in our community who are more vulnerable and have been especially impacted by the pandemic restrictions this past year.
National Senior Health & Fitness Day, on May 26, promotes the importance of regular physical activity and highlights what local organizations are doing to improve the health of older adults in their communities, I can’t think of a better time to share the benefits of group exercise and how it promotes a healthy lifestyle, notably for seniors.
Group fitness for seniors often involves an instructor, like me, guiding a class through exercises, and these movements usually focus on strength and balance. In a whole-body program, the exercises performed are basic, and instructors often show modifications for intensity levels that allow people to follow along whether it is their first day or third year attending a class. Having an expert trainer guide you through the movements also helps you to maintain proper form and prevent injury.
These kinds of classes generally offer a variety of movements to keep things interesting and to help keep energy and strength up throughout the week. I like to create well-rounded programs that focus on hitting the upper body, lower body and the core. Aquacise, exercise performed in water, is another great low-impact group fitness option for seniors.
Many benefits of group exercise involve the sense of community that is created from working out together. There is added enjoyment and social interaction in catching up with friends before and after class, which gives you something to look forward to if the exercise itself doesn’t do the trick. Plus, being in a room with others who are participating and doing the same movements can provide motivation and inspiration, and boost your confidence. These classes can be a very supportive environment. After a year of limited social engagements, the “group” element of group fitness feels even more essential.
Another added benefit of group fitness is the accountability. When your friends and neighbors are attending class too, you are more likely to keep going to work out. Group fitness promotes a healthy lifestyle because it is much easier to get into the habit of staying active by having to stick to a schedule and go to a group exercise class at the same time every day or week.
Group exercise is a great way to ease back into a workout routine. As more people are vaccinated and you feel more comfortable out and about, these kinds of programs will help get you back into an exercise routine and interacting with others again.
Exercise can also come in all forms and doesn’t always have to be in a structured gym setting, and doing it with a group of friends always makes it more enjoyable! Go for a stroll around your neighborhood lake, play some “Minute to Win It” games, challenge someone to a paper airplane throwing contest – what matters is you’re up and moving while having fun with friends.
Over the past year, people have been doing as much as they can to keep up with their social lives, but seeing friends through Zoom is just not the same as a shared experience. I’ve enjoyed seeing the community in Plymouth and Trillium Woods start to come alive again this spring, and I encourage you to seek out the health benefits of group fitness classes as you start to feel more comfortable out in the world again. With fitness and fun rolled into one, I assure you that your body and your mind will thank you.
Sam Lefaive is the fitness center manager at Trillium Woods in Plymouth.