Senior fitness class

Classes Geared Toward Senior Health Making a Difference in U.P. Communities

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is aging faster than the rest of the state, which means an increased demand for health care services and programming to meet the unique needs of seniors.

For older residents living near Escanaba and Iron Mountain, free classes are helping to meet the need and improving health outcomes for participants. The “Active for Life” initiative is run through the Northern Lights YMCA and provides classes that focus on low-impact exercises, chronic pain self-management, diabetes education, and balance and fall prevention. Funding support is provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation.

Caron Salo, fund development director, Northern Lights YMCA, said many of the people taking classes are hard workers – they’ve raised their families and often neglected their own health needs along the way.

“Now that they are in retirement age, they’re saying ‘it’s my time and I want to enjoy my quality of life’,” Salo said.

Cindy Reinhardt teaches Sit & Get Fit classes, which provide a low-impact workout that incorporates a chair for seated or standing support. The class is great for people of any age who are just getting started with exercise, people recovering from an injury and seniors, who might need a slower pace and more supported activities.

Word of mouth has made these classes popular, Reinhardt said, and she’s observed many fitness success stories emerge since they started.

“People are saying what a difference this class has been to them,” she explained. “To see the progress that these individuals have made, it is amazing.”

Besides the exercise classes, other “Active for Life” offerings help people learn how to better their health through effective management of chronic conditions and by implementing strategies to avoid common senior injuries related to slips, trips and falls. Additionally, participants get to know each other and form bonds, strengthening their social circle and improving mental health along the way.

“It gives them a purpose, a routine and a structure to their daily lives,” Reinhardt said.

If you’re interested in any of the “Active for Life” classes, visit the Northern Lights YMCA website to find class schedules and locations.

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Photo credit: Thomas EyeDesign

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