For many, January’s close sounds the death knoll of a fruitless New Year’s fitness resolution. Thirty minutes every busy day on the treadmill or under the weights can quickly turn into drudgery. Staying active shouldn’t need to be boring and difficult, though, and it doesn’t have to be. Just ask the residents of Clermont Park Retirement Community.
Every week, the Clermont Park community fitness center offers residents the choice of over eight instructor-led fitness courses ranging from Wii bowling to Tai Chi. Instructor Carolina Paez has been offering Tai Chi classes at Clermont Park for several years. During that time, both she and the class have definitely made a lasting, positive impression on resident attendees.
Jean Johnston has been active in the class for over three years, and she’s found it anything but difficult or dull. “You cannot not pay attention to Carolina. She’s very perceptive and full of good humor.”
“Her enthusiasm is boundless,” agreed Clermont Park resident Carol Moe, “And you can tell she’s really dedicated to the people here.”
The Tai Chi classes focus on controlled movement, beginning with leg movements and a special emphasis on heels and toes. Then they move to upper-body exercises. Residents follow Carolina to the tune of soothing music, stepping forward, circling with their arms and then carefully combining both actions together.
All of these activities help build balance and strength—two things that are critical to remaining well later in life. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans.
“If something happens, like a fracture or illness, seniors recover more quickly if they’ve been exercising regularly,” explained Julianne Cooper, Senior Director of Clermont Park’s rehabilitation program. “Our therapy program also helps residents develop a plan for ongoing exercise after they have left the rehab program. Exercise classes can help them meet this goal.”
In addition to helping injuries heal, it appears that classes like Tai Chi may even prevent them. This benefit seems to be due to physical strengthening and cognitive stimulation that develops new brain patterns.
“The class has really helped my balance,” Jean noted. “I haven’t had a fall since I started.”
Carol has also noticed a change. For her, the improvement is in physical alertness. “I pay much better attention, especially to my feet and ankles,” she said, “I learned about muscles I didn’t know I had.”
And all this improvement occurs while having a ball on the fitness floor. “Carolina makes the class easy and so much fun,” Jean added, nodding toward Carol. “We both plan to stick with it.”
And with that kind of routine, who wouldn’t want to stay active all year-round?
This article originally appeared in Denver Post's Your Hub and is copyrighted and used by permission.