Seniors nationwide claim their independence as a “most valued possession.” For many, remaining independent means staying physically fit in order to take care of themselves, maintain their mobility and live a healthy active life.
With this in mind, Riverside County developed Fit After 50, a free fitness program for seniors, aimed at avoiding falls and prolonging independence. The program incorporates simple exercises that can increase strength, balance and flexibility. Thirty three classes are offered weekly in various locations including the Stergios Building at Desert Regional Medical Center, the Mizell Senior Center in Palm Springs, the Joslyn Center in Palm Desert, and the Coachella Senior Center in Coachella.
The program is sponsored by the Riverside County Office on Aging and is managed by 84 year-old Palm Desert resident Betty Robinson, who also teaches classes and trains instructors. “It is never too late to rebuild muscle tissue. Exercise should be a priority in our lives. It is preventative medicine, and only two hours a week can help you regain strength and mobility,” says Robinson. Fit After Fifty currently has 500-550 participants from ages 55-97 years.
Started in 2003, Fit After 50 was adopted from a statewide evidence based model program developed to ease the state’s financial burden from falls and injuries. Riverside County’s exercise guidelines were created by Sherri Lucas, MS and Jessie Jones, Ph.D of California State University, Fullerton. Classes are one hour long beginning with a warm up of abdominal breathing, stretching, and core & balance exercises; then followed by resistance core strength training exercises.
Nationwide, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among older people according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “In 2007, the American Heart Association (AHA) added strength and balance training 2-3 days a week to their recommended weekly exercise regimen. Fit After 50 meets AHA guidelines and offers members a positive social environment to exercise with their peers,” states Robinson.
Participants benefit from more than just increased physical fitness. “We bond through the program because we are all working towards the same goal–keeping our independence for as long as we can.”
In addition to new members, Fit After 50 is looking for new Valley locations and volunteer instructors who will be certified by the program. Instructors currently range in age from 30 to 85.
For more information and a list of classes/locations, call 760-341-0401 or visit www.rcaging.org and click on Fit After 50, under “Programs and Services.”