Challenging aging stereotypes and promoting good health through exercise
Brock research challenges perceptions surrounding seniors fitness
Photo: Thinking has changed when it comes to seniors exercise and fitness levels. Submitted Photo
The following information was submitted to ThoroldNews by Kimberley L. Gammage, Ph.D. Department of Kinesiology, Brock University:
‘Fitness today for tomorrow’ is the motto for the SeniorFit exercise program at Brock University. SeniorFit was established almost 13 years ago when a group of women participating in a research study asked if they could continue to exercise once the study concluded. From there, the program continued to grow into an exercise program for anyone 55 years and older.
In 2013, we came together with the Heart Strong (for cardiac rehabilitation) and Power Cord (for individuals with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury) programs to create the Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being. The Centre promotes health and well-being through teaching, research, and community engagement.
At SeniorFit, our goal is to encourage seniors to be physically active to promote health, maintain independence, and improve quality of life. However, we know that exercise has more than just physical benefits – and this is what makes our gym different than all the other gyms out there. At SeniorFit we believe that social interaction and increased confidence are just as important to help break the stereotypes of aging in society today. Our program is different, because our members are all seniors.
The primary benefit of a seniors-specific program, according to our members, is that they don’t feel intimidated by people lifting heavy weights or wearing ‘skimpy’ clothing. Instead, members exercise with their peers.
We are also able to focus on physical activity programming designed specifically for the needs of older adults. For example, one unique aspect of our program is the emphasis on balance training. Using a unique balance obstacle course, members work with students one-on-one to enhance their balance as a way to reduce fall risk.
We also emphasize physical activity to build strength to allow members to perform everyday activities with ease. In addition, we offer numerous fitness classes such as yoga, qi gong, dance-fit, and circuit training to add variety to members’ workouts. Finally, we know that as we age, we are at risk of developing chronic conditions. But, these conditions don’t have to prevent people from exercising – in fact, people with almost all conditions can benefit from participating in physical activity. We have two full-time registered kinesiologists who are able to help make any adaptations to individuals’ programs to ensure they are safe and effective.
However, our biggest asset is our students. We have both undergraduate and graduate Kinesiology and Health Sciences students at the Centre to assist our members throughout their workouts. They teach members how to do exercises properly, adapt programs for each individual, answer questions, and generally create a welcoming and motivating environment for everyone.
These students are training for careers in health-related fields such as rehabilitation, nursing, and education. The experiences they get at SeniorFit are invaluable for preparing them for their future careers. Many students say that this is the most beneficial (and enjoyable) experience in their entire university careers.
Today, with more than 300 members, the SeniorFit program has grown substantially. However, it still has that same sense of community and support that we had when we started with just 20 members 13 years ago.
For more information, contact Dr. Kimberley Gammage, director, SeniorFit at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about joining any of the programs at the Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being, visit our website or contact us at email@example.com or 905-688-5550 ext. 5589.