Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Barre is not just for the young, but the young at heart!

GettyImages-656954108Barre, a fitness regimen, has recently gained a lot of popularity over the years. This low-impact exercise does not require any fancy, expensive equipment and people of all ages can do it. It is a workout that combines elements of Ballet, Pilates, and Yoga. It focuses on low-impact, high repetition, and small isometric movements to strengthen and tone your body.

I personally love barre and believe it is such a good workout. I try to implement it into my own weekly fitness regimen! When I started working at my community, I thought why not introduce Barre to our residents? It’s a fun and low impact workout choreographed to upbeat music, they might just like it. We introduced the class and added it the schedule and have gained a good group of “regulars” since then.

Here are a few reasons why I believe Senior Barre is a must try workout to add to your schedule:

  • Appropriate for those of all ages: The small range of motion and low impact workout is a great option for those with limited mobility. Barre is modifiable for all fitness levels yet can still be challenging enough to push yourself further than you thought was possible.
  • Improves strength and balance: Certain exercises may be done on one leg which allows balance and strength to be tested. A lot of exercises will require you to use multiple muscle groups at the same time while engaging your core. Barre also targets a lot of the smaller, intrinsic muscles in your body that are often ignored when performing other strength training workouts.
  • Creates a sense of community: Going to a Barre group fitness class gives people an opportunity to see their neighbors and friends while still being healthy. Attending these classes help create a sense of support, teamwork, and commitment!
  • Improves posture: The class spends a great deal of time focusing on proper spinal alignment form the top of your head to the tips of your toes. It especially includes a focus on the hips, spine, neck, and shoulders.
  • Improves flexibility: You don’t have to be a flexible Ballerina to enjoy Barre, but it will help improve your range of motion. Maintaining good flexibility can help you stay mobile and participate in all different types of activities.
  • Reduces anxiety or stress: Regular exercise can help divert you from thinking about what you are anxious about. Your body also releases endorphins during exercise which can help keep your mind sharp.
  • Can be done at home: With everything going on with COVID and with a lot of gyms and studios shutting down or having extra restrictions, Barre is the perfect workout that can be done at home. It’s doesn’t require any crazy equipment and since most homes do not have an actual ballet bar, most exercises can be done using a chair. Also, if you don’t have a set of weights at home, you can use soup cans or water bottles. 

Barre’s functional training component can help give seniors the proper form to help them with everyday activities of daily living. It also has a great number of positive physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. There are so many fun and challenging ways to keep your body moving during these classes, so the next time you are thinking of changing up your fitness routine, try a Barre class!

 

Topics: senior fitness group fitness for seniors senior group fitness classes barre

Creating a Parkinson’s Specific Group Fitness Class

GettyImages-1225625994 (1)In this blog, we covered some of the basics of how exercise is vital to those living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in slowing the progression of the disease and managing symptoms. Now let’s chat about creating a Parkinson’s specific group fitness class for your members with PD. For me, group fitness is one of my favorite ways to exercise – something about the fun and engaging group atmosphere, accountability, motivation, and support from peers makes solo-exercise feel especially unappealing some days. Participating in group exercise can have huge benefits for your PD population too, but not just any group class is appropriate. Parkinson’s specific exercise classes can address common symptoms of PD including impaired balance and coordination, stiffness, freezing, poor posture, and limited flexibility/mobility which can in turn help to improve quality of life and help perform ADL’s more easily. Through a carefully developed exercise routine, individuals with PD may be able to slow the progression of the disease and improve their mobility and independence.

First, ensure that you (if you are the instructor), or your fitness staff have had adequate training and educational background on PD and are specialized in the training of individuals with PD to ensure classes are both safe and effective. You’ll want to encourage your members to check with their physician prior to starting a program and we recommend obtaining medical clearance as well.

While considering the unique training needs of members with PD, classes should be adapted to accommodate a variety of ability levels and include a variety of exercises which require both focus and effort. Each member should also be working at a moderate to vigorous intensity for the most effective workout. Utilize the RPE scale to ensure they are feeling somewhere between a 4-6 (moderate) or 7-8 (vigorous) out of 10. The components you want to include are aerobic, strength, balance, multitasking and flexibility for a complete workout. We recommend timing classes to be 50+ minutes in length so you have adequate time to warm up and training time inclusive of all components.

Structuring your classes: Start off with a warmup which includes raising the heart rate, warming up the body, stretching and flexibility exercises and of course some deep breathing. We want our PD members to really focus on deep breaths so they can relax and get a good stretch which in turn will combat muscle rigidity and assist in ADL’s.

Next, shift your focus to include aerobic training and strengthening exercises. Again, for aerobic exercise we want our participants to be working hard! This might be a time to consider adding in some dual tasks for cognition and coordination too! Dual tasks can be combined with any of the other training modalities so make sure to pepper those in often throughout your class. Try things like walking while counting backwards, catching a ball, standing on a foam pad while answering questions, or a variety of compound exercises. For this, just think “multitask” and have participants do two (or more!) things at once. For strengthening exercises, aim to hit the major muscle groups, but at the very least, you want to strongly address the muscles of the core, quads, glutes, back and triceps as they all lose strength and lead to poor postural changes.

Balance training is another essential training component in class as members with PD are two times more likely to fall when compared to those without PD due to slower reaction time, freezing, decline in mobility and balance, and lower body muscle weakness. You’ll definitely want to practice balance exercises and safe movement techniques in every exercise session!

Some other movements to add into your classes include boxing movements, yoga or tai chi practices, big movements, utilizing the voice loudly by counting or singing, and brain teasers or cognitive challenges. As always, end with adequate time to allow the body to cool down, stretch and some more deep breathing.

A few additional considerations as you develop your PD class include choreography and music! Studies have shown dancing and choreographed movements can help with balance, gait, confidence, movement initiation and QOL. Similarly, using music can reduce stress, improve breathing and voice quality, and make it FUN for you participants!

DOWNLOAD: 3 Keys to Adding Group Fitness Classes at your Community>

Topics: active aging senior fitness group fitness for seniors improving senior fitness Parkinson's Disease

Marching into Better Balance: NIFS Annual Balance Challenge

Balance Challenge logoAs you might know, just the fear of falling can have significant and lasting impact on older adults or family members’ quality of life. In fact, the fear itself is a risk factor for falls. The good news is that falls can be prevented through balance-specific training and education, which is why NIFS has adopted a comprehensive balance-training method that goes far beyond simply offering balance-training group fitness classes.

It's Time for the Annual Balance Challenge

As part of our commitment to improving balance and reducing the risk of falls, we launched the annual Balance Challenge in 2013 and have been expanding on it ever since. Residents across the country will join us this month as we March into Better Balance with the 8th Annual Balance Challenge. This hallmark program has truly become a fan favorite, and NIFS staff at senior living communities across the country will be focusing on educating their members on fall prevention while providing special balance-training classes, programs, and events.

Participants will be encouraged to complete a Fullerton Advanced Balance Assessment as well as a pre and post self-evaluation survey relating to their perceived levels of balance and confidence. During the month of March, participants will have the opportunity to choose from a menu of programming that includes a balance fair, a fall-prevention presentation, a workshop on how to get up from a fall if one were to occur, small group discussions addressing the fears surrounding falls, a home safety check, and multiple modalities of balance training through group fitness classes, circuit courses, balance games, and more.

One strong advantage of hosting the Balance Challenge is that it shines a spotlight on the fall-prevention program offerings readily available all year long in the fitness center. NIFS staff members regularly collaborate with rehab and the healthcare team at the communities we serve to support resident transitions into and out of therapy. Residents appreciate the opportunity to continue building on the gains they made in rehab with the help of NIFS degreed and certified staff in the fitness center. This strong collaboration with rehab and robust service menu of programs is a great service model for supporting resident well-being year round, and the Balance Challenge serves as a reminder of everything that is available.

Results of Last Year’s Balance Challenge

Last year’s Balance Challenge resulted in many valuable accomplishments:

  • Perceived balance: Across the communities, participants’ perception of their balance taken from their pre and post self-evaluations demonstrated a 12% increase in confidence.
  • Fear of falls: Across the communities, participants’ fear of falling decreased by 18% as reported from their pre and post self-evaluations following the Balance Challenge.
  • Total visits: There was an average increase of 11% in total resident participation to the fitness centers in March 2019 compared to March 2018.
  • Group fitness visits: Group fitness classes saw an average increase of 17% participation in March 2019 compared to March 2018.
  • Appointment volume: Resident engagement increased by 32% in the number of appointments conducted in March 2019 compared to March 2018.

The data tells a story, and clearly the residents increase their participation in fitness program offerings when there is an emphasis on comprehensive fall-prevention programming. They truly turn out to learn, train, and experience these offerings.

NIFS partners with premier senior living providers across the US to bring their residents best-in-class fitness and wellness programming. The NIFS Balance Challenge is a great example of how our qualified fitness professionals have the skills and resources to support resident well-being while increasing education about fall prevention and increasing overall participation in the fitness program. Click here to learn more about resident successes from participating in NIFS fall-prevention programming. Looking to get started with some balance training exercises? Click here for inspiration!

Check out NIFS Premier Fall Prevention Program: Balance Redefined, our comprehensive approach to fall prevention programming.

Learn more about Balance Redefined 

Topics: engagement fall prevention group fitness for seniors NIFS programs balance training for seniors balance challenge

Senior Fitness: Don't be afraid to go back to the basics

In every fitness center setting it seems that the goal is to provide the most up-to-date, “trendy” group fitness classes and personal training. And while I agree that trying to offer something new and exciting is very important, I also think that sometimes we need to bring fitness back to the basics.

NIFS | seniors seated stretching

This is very important at a senior living setting. Many of our senior living communities support active living for several hundred people and providing fitness services appropriate for every fitness level can be challenging. It easy to cater to the “most active” group of participants. But we wanted to make sure we were reaching as many different residents as possible, so our fitness center staff challenged ourselves to take it back to the basics by providing a personalized group training that focused on the “bare bones” of exercise. And let me tell you, it has been some of the most rewarding work I’ve done to date! 

While I can’t deny that fitness professionals get a thrill out of providing a tough workout in a high intensity class and hearing “that was hard,” I can honestly say that providing an appropriate workout for those who need to take it back to the basics of fitness is also just as thrilling. Being able to coach a member to stand up from his chair independently when he hasn't been able to in a long time can make your heart swell with pride for his accomplishment. 

Now I’m taking that “back to basics” challenge to you dear reader. If you work in a senior fitness setting, take a look at your membership. Start identifying the needs of your members who struggle with standing, walking, overall balance, basic strength, and most importantly their confidence! One of the criteria we used when we started evaluating who might benefit most from “back to basics” programming was to begin with members who tend to get a little behind in class and do not reap the full the benefits. 

Once you build that member list, start reaching out individually to target specific fitness and functional living needs. Then watch how your overall participation numbers grow and how the increased confidence of some of your more frail residents helps them gain additional strength for every day needs. This experience has surprised me; I didn’t expect that getting back to the basics would be so rewarding and exciting, but it has been an absolute joy. Have a similar story to share? Respond the comments below.

Like what you just read? Subscribe to our blog.

Topics: active aging group fitness for seniors senior group fitness classes resident fitness exercise and aging fitness for frail seniors

What's Missing From Your Resident Fitness Program and How To Fix It

NIFS | Senior Group Fitness

I hear from a lot of leadership in senior living communities who know that there's more that could be done with their resident exercise program, but they aren't sure how to get their staff to ramp things up. If you find yourself in this situation, check out the list below for common challenges and opportunities to do better for your residents.

Our participation is lower than it should be.

There are a few reasons that participation in your fitness program might run lower than it should.  The first thing to determine is whether you have reliable data about who is participating. When we  start working with a community, we often learn that they may have total (or estimated) counts for group fitness class participation and that's the end of their program data.  

  • Start by tracking participation per resident. You'll have more reliable information about who is participating, how frequently they attend, and what they participate in. You'll also gain knowledge about who isn't coming to the fitness center and/or classes.
  • If your staff can deliver on individual services for residents, add fitness and balance testing along with exercise prescriptions to provide residents who aren't participating with the support they need to feel safe and inspired to begin an exercise program.

[Read More: 4 Strategies to Engage More Residents in Your Exercise Program]

Our group fitness class calendar needs a do-over.

It's common for the group fitness class calendar to get set on autopilot without critical evaluation of what needs to be updated.

  • Start by using the participation data to figure out which classes really deserve a spot on your calendar.
  • The balance classes our staff teach in our client communities are by far the most popular format. If you don't have dedicated balance training classes on the calendar, add them now. It's not enough to have balance training mixed in with a strength class or another blended format.
  • Carefully consider class descriptions; how you word group fitness opportunities for residents can make a big difference in what resonates with a previously inactive audience.

We need to be offering more fun programs.

Creating fun and inspiring programs to invite more participation in the fitness center is one of the best parts of the job! It's really central to how our staff are supporting residents in the client fitness centers we manage. Consider that engaging programs should be more than just fun; they should be built strategically to meet a specific goal. For example, NIFS Fitness Freeze program was a solid solution to combat the traditional fitness center visit decline we see in December each year. Or, think more holistically about Active Aging Week and use National Senior Health and Fitness Day to offer non-traditional options for physical activity.

***

If you're committed to keeping your fitness staff in house, then they need some support to start improving what they're offering your residents. Our eBook on how to turn your fitness center from vacant to vibrant is a great next step.

Take your fitness center from vacant to vibrant >

Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness group fitness for seniors fitness for seniors

Improve your senior living fitness program by outsourcing the staff

If you believe it's time to offer more to current residents and prospects through your exercise program, but you're not quite sure what that "more" entails or how to get there, outsourcing might make a lot of sense for your community.

Outsourcing isn't just for therapy

The primary benefit to looking at a partner for management of any area of your community is the value of the depth and breadth of the firm's experience. Communities don't think twice about outsourcing therapy but when it comes to taking a closer look at the reasons to outsource management of the fitness center and related programming, I sometimes get blank stares from leadership. And I can't explain it. Certainly, how we provide service, the nature of our contracts with our clients, and the credentials of the staff we provide for community fitness is different from therapy groups, but the overall concept is the same. If you want an expert-run fitness program, you have to work with the experts. 

I’ve had the opportunity to work with NIFS for many years with multiple communities and I can say without exception that they have taken the wellness program in our communities to a new level. They are the best in the industry at what they do, and I would not hesitate bringing them in to any senior housing community that I am affiliated with. Our communities are stronger with NIFS on their team.  ~Mick Feauto, COO, LifeSpire of Virginia

NIFS math | LeadingAge | Senior Living

NIFS Math

NIFS staff in your community are backed by an our organization that is uniquely focused on the specific work of elevating your fitness program. We're regularly supporting continuing education for our team and we have a proven model for effectively sharing resources so our clients get far more than the one NIFS manager on the ground. We like to call it "NIFS math" where 1 + 1 = 3.

 

What to expect from your fitness program

4399_KF_3163.jpgYou need your fitness center to be a hallmark, a standout for the community. For your current residents, it should be one of the most praised offerings both because the staff are well-loved and because they are effective at keeping residents engaged with new, consistent, well-done offerings. The fitness program should also be on the list of reasons prospective residents choose your community. But if the group fitness calendar and the personal training services look the same as all the competition, and if you don't have the necessary data to tell key stories about how resident's lives have been improved by participating, then you're missing out on an opportunity.

NIFS clients see a lot of value in their partnerships because they gain much more than "just a trainer" for their gym. Check out some of the services we provide that aren't common to most community fitness programs:

  • Balance Redefined includes rich programming and services focused specifically on balance training and fall prevention; our Balance Redefined offerings were built from, and regularly evolve because of our experience with dozens of communities over the last 15 years.
  • Key data points for the fitness program are regularly reported and smartly used to continuously improve what we're offering in each client setting. From tracking participation per resident to evaluating outcomes and goals on our programs, we are constantly checking in on and reporting our progress.
  • Reaching residents in assisted living and memory care environments with quality fitness services can be a real challenge. Our staff provide that outreach through strong relationships with community lifestyle coordinators. Modified balance assessments, group classes, personal training, and hybrid health-related programming are all tailored for the unique needs of residents in those settings.

[Related Content: 4 Keys to Getting Data You Can Actually Use]

Find out how you can put NIFS math to work in your community. Contact us or stop by and see us at the LeadingAge Expo.  We'll be hanging out with our calculators doing NIFS math in booth #1261.

Topics: senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living communities senior fitness group fitness for seniors fitness center for seniors leading age LeadingAge senior wellness consulting

Balance Redefined: Fall prevention moves beyond the group fitness calendar

In my last post about our launch of Balance Redefined, I wrote about the importance of building a group fitness calendar that includes stand-alone balance classes. Now I want to address how your community can move beyond the classes on the calendar to build a wrap-around fall prevention program.

Balance-redefined-final-programs-page.jpg

In truth, if you want to cultivate a robust balance program, you'll have to get more people than just your fitness center manager to the table. Here's how we make that happen for our clients:

 

 

[Related Content: How NIFS fitness managers spend their time]

  • Partnerships: Therapy, home health and nursing staff are invited to observe a balance class to aid in resident referrals for those who could benefit. Many of the therapy teams we partner with will provide patients with a handout of exercises to continue upon discharge from their services with additional instructions to participate in the balance class. Our staff are involved in the discharge plan and participate in a hand off of a resident from their therapy regimen to a preventive program in the fitness center.
  • Assessments: Using the Fullerton Advance Balance Test protocols in conjunction with the Senior Fitness Test, we assess how a resident’s vestibular, somatosensory, and/or visual senses impact their balance. Based on the results, we prescribe specific exercises to improve specific areas of weakness. We believe strongly that working with residents to identify the underlying cause of a balance deficiency opens the door to further educating and empowering the individual on a path to improved well-being both emotionally and physically.
  • Education: Empowering residents through education and resources on fall prevention is key to improving confidence and helping residents identify the services best suited to their needs. NIFS offers an array of educational programs ranging from fall prevention lectures partnered with the therapy department, to seminars on coaching residents how to fall safely or get up from the ground, as well as signs/symptoms to look for with concussions and the long-term impact one can have on a senior’s stability.
  • Balance Fairs: Think Health Fair with a creative twist to showcase everything balance and fall prevention related! This collaborative effort taps into internal and external partners to communicate services and resources for residents. Examples of vendors for the fair include an assistive device tune-up clinic from rehab, a balance assessments from the fitness staff, a "balance your plate" booth from dining services, a local podiatry practice educating on proper footwear, the community pharmacist speaking about medication side effects, internal clinic/health services offering blood pressure screenings, a local chiropractor providing posture checks, and more.

This may be a unique approach for your community, and if you don't have adequate fitness staff in place, it could seem like a heavy lift. If you need to rally your staff around the concept, forward on this blog to start the conversation, or download our quick read on the importance of balance training. With services ranging from fun balance circuits to balance sessions using the Wii Fit or Biodex Balance System to aquatic balance programs, prospects will quickly see how much more your community offers.

Based on the consulting work I've done with communities across the US, this is a comprehensive, prevention-based approach that helps our clients stand out from their competition. If you want to find out more about how to bring NIFS and Balance Redefined to your residents, connect with us.

Find out how nifs can help

Topics: fall prevention group fitness for seniors balance redefined

3 Must-Have Services in Your Senior Living Community Fitness Center

GettyImages-1010884934While the size and shape of fitness spaces can vary dramatically from one senior living community to the next, it is very common for there to be at least some dedicated space with exercise equipment for resident use. It’s also quite common for communities to offer group exercise classes as part of the activity program. In some cases, communities also offer a personal training service.

However, that’s often where the fitness-related services for seniors stop. Below are three additional considerations that will elevate your exercise program to better serve current residents and to attract prospects who are looking for their next home.

Membership

Establishing a membership practice for your fitness center will serve a few key purposes.

  • The first is to help manage your liability tied to the community’s fitness spaces as well as to protect the seniors you serve. Fitness facility standards outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine are designed to be an industry-standard set of practices for the safe and effective management of fitness areas. Adhering to as many of their standards as is reasonable will help ensure the fitness program is successful for both your community and the residents.
  • The second is to establish a database of active participants so that staff can accurately track who is using the fitness programs and services and how often. Tracking attendance by member allows your staff to proactively reach out to residents who have historically been regular participants and who may have slowed or stopped their activity, or to those residents who have not yet joined the fitness program.

Exercise Prescriptions

Many of today’s residents haven’t engaged in regular exercise outside of their lives in your community, so it’s intimidating for them to approach a treadmill, recumbent bike, or strength equipment. Providing residents with an expert who can create an exercise program based on individual goals and limitations is a great way to help a novice exerciser start to understand how to use the equipment. Following up the exercise prescription service with regular support during each workout demonstrates a real commitment to physical wellness in your community.

Senior Fitness Testing

Getting a baseline on your residents’ fitness level is a great way to help them understand the progress they can make in the fitness center to either maintain or improve their physical well-being. The senior fitness test provides those results and feeds well into the exercise prescription service outlined above. There is inexpensive software (and a manual) that can be used to administer the testing and provide the participant with results. The equipment for each test is also relatively inexpensive and includes items like cones, a step bench, and a timer, among other equipment.

In addition to residents benefitting from their individual results, the community can use aggregate fitness testing data to determine strengths and weaknesses within the fitness program so that classes and other programs appropriately target residents’ fitness needs.

What’s Next?

To be fair, the membership piece could be managed by a lifestyle director. But the exercise prescription and fitness assessment pieces need to be managed by a trained exercise professional who understands the ins and outs of prescribing exercise for older adults. Read about how to hire a qualified fitness professional for your community, or consider working with us because NIFS managers provide these key services as part of our standard senior living fitness programming. Or, click the button below if you’re looking for more ideas about what you should expect from a robust fitness program.

Learn More

Topics: NIFS senior fitness management senior living community senior living fitness center group fitness for seniors personal trainng exercise prescriptions

NIFS: The Substitute; Don't Fear an Unknown Group Fitness Instructor

instructorsStand on the street and ask 100 random people their feelings about going to school as a child and you will get 100 different answers. If I were asked my response would have sounded something like this, “I just want to graduate and get a job so I can be done with homework and live the easy life like adults.” I’m shaking my head as I write this, but that is how I truly felt back then. No matter whom you are certain days in school were destined to be fun, and those days were when we had a SUBSTITUTE. Well today I am going to be that sub, except I won’t be in a classroom with books, I will be on a track with kettle bells, plyo boxes, and resistance bands; I’m subbing for an outdoor boot camp class.

Personally I love to cover other instructor’s classes, because I am guaranteed to encounter something different. The something different part is what we should all look for no matter our profession, new experiences break the monotony of our every day schedules and will positively affect our brain function. As I’m preparing for class my mind is racing and I love it, what music should I play, I wonder how many people will come, how fit are they, what if they can’t do an exercise, what if we don’t have enough equipment?  Are just a few of the questions racing through my mind, but instructing the class and facing those questions gives me the opportunity to hone my skills, meet new people, travel to new places, and hopefully become a better instructor for the classes I already have, and for  those I will sub for in the future.

I hope the same benefits I receive from instructing a new class is passed on to the class I am leading. Any fitness professional will tell you to vary your workouts to reduce boredom and to aid physiological changes. Well nothing will change things up for a group fitness program like being led by a different instructor. No matter how similar two instructors are, there will always be some differences, for example a different cadence will require a higher level of mental focus so that you can stay in sync with the instructor. Often people who have been working with the same instructor for long periods of time can go into “auto-pilot” or turn their brain off during class because they are so familiar with the routine that their body just moves without much thought as to what they are doing.

This blog is not meant for just group fitness instructors and exercise class goers, it’s meant for everyone. Break your everyday cycle and try something different. It will affect an area in your life positively. For all my class goers: when that sub does walk through the door, don’t pout, your instructor will be back, but in the mean time act like a kid again, let all that energy out and have a great class, after all it’s only a sub!

Get your groove on with NIFS group fitness classes

Topics: group exercise group fitness for seniors

Active Aging: Lessons Learned for Teaching Classes in Memory Care

chair exercise resized 600

Just like any exercise program, there is a long list of health benefits that come with exercising. In fact, exercise not only improves physical health, but cognitive health as well. The Alzheimer’s Association widely accepts that, “Physical exercise is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain as well as to encourage new brain cells. It also can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and improve oxygen consumption”. Though memory impairments affect the body’s cognitive heath, it’s important to perform cognitive and physical activities to improve brain function. The body also needs strength and endurance to perform its activities of daily senior living such as eating, dressing, and getting around your home.

With this in mind, we began offering a special class to meet the unique needs of the memory-care residents at our community. We made it our goal to incorporate exercise as a means of fall prevention and overall improvement of physical and mental health. Having taught group exercise for quite some time, I thought this would be an easy transition. I reached out to my colleagues for advice on specific exercise recommendations for older adults with memory impairments and quickly mapped out an exercise class format. Boy was I surprised when I taught the class for the first time!

The normal exercise cuing of “Lift your right leg up. That’s 1, 2, now 3….” just didn’t cut it. Some of the individuals followed, but most of the residents looked at me with confused faces. One resident even said, “You know you are a really bad dancer!”. So, over the next couple months, with much trial, error and research I developed a new class called “Moving Minds”.

The new class incorporates seated exercises that are both engaging and effective. We always begin with a short warm-up with seated marching and a game. The game is as simple as passing around a beach ball, bean bag toss, or some form of bowling. This gets the residents moving and their brain focused for the main exercises. Our main exercises include low-impact joint movement and stretching. We use equipment such as pool noodles, balloons and bouncy balls to add a little fun.  The residents love doing the exercises with the noodles and are always playful with each other.

I always encourage the residents to count with me out loud as we go through the exercises. After 10-15 minutes of our main exercises we wrap up with another game. We also engage in conversation while doing the exercises where I ask the date, day of week, and various other questions. Some are more attentive than others, but they always have something interesting to say. One of my most enjoyable residents, yells “10, big fat hen!” every time we count to 10.

Overall, the residents’ health is continuing to improve and I have noticed small gains in cognitive ability. Sometimes the residents remember my name and I can tell they are getting used to their Moving Minds routine. The Center for Brain Health states, “Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance”.

Moving Minds may not look like a typical exercise class-in fact, I still have residents who comment on my “bad dancing” or make animal noises the entire time we exercise. However, the truth lies in their many giggles and big smiles as they leave the class. Each week I’m reminded how great it is to work with this population.

Quick Tip to Strengthen Your Community Exercise Program

Topics: active aging senior living senior living communities group fitness for seniors memory care