February 3, 2005
Donald Tacha’s physique belies his 72 years. Frequently found at the Mesa YMCA, Tacha sees exercise as key to warding off illness.
A Wisconsin resident who winters in Apache Junction, Tacha has no physical ailments that inhibit his exercising. But some seniors do, and routines tailored to those needs can be created in establishing a regular exercise program, says Jan Hertzfeld, Mesa YMCA health and fitness director.
"The term ‘seniors’ takes in a large group of people with very different interests and abilities," she says. Some individuals 65-plus are still competing in events like Senior Olympics. Other older adults look at exercise as a means of maintaining quality of life and independence.
"All the components of fitness that apply to younger people apply to seniors," Hertzfeld says. Those components include cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and good nutrition. Seniors, specifically, need to consider activities that promote balance. Weight training, too, is important in preventing osteoporosis. To what degree these components are emphasized depends on the goal of the senior.
"Exercise also can provide another component of health — socialization," Hertzfeld says. Seniors meeting at the Mesa YMCA go to lunch regularly. They walk together. "They never miss unless they are ill."
As some seniors are new to gyms and exercise routines, four instructors have been assigned to work with this population to make them comfortable.
"The first day they walk in all bent over," Hertzfeld says. In time, they are standing up straight and commenting on lowering their medication, losing weight and having more energy.