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Class allows older adults to get active in friendly, safe environment

Mona Fowler, 69, of Front Royal, and the rest of the SilverSneakers group use elastic bands in this seated exercise at Golds Gym in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

John Huttar of Strasburg stretches during the warm up period. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Jean Barbour, 75, of Front Royal, stretches a resistance band during a SilverSneakers workout. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Ann Mitchell, 70, of Front Royal, uses an elastic band during her exercise session. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Sandra Jenkins, 72, of Flint Hill, uses a ball in this drill to pass it through her legs. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Laura Lantz directs the SilverSneakers class at Golds Gym in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Katie Demeria

FRONT ROYAL -- Some local, older adults are taking less medication, finding it easier to climb stairs, and accomplishing everyday tasks with greater ease. These individuals have discovered the all-around benefits of exercise.

SilverSneakers is a national program with a chapter located in Gold's Gym in Front Royal. It is designed to allow older individuals to exercise without straining themselves.

Dawn Hinkle, an instructor coordinator with SilverSneakers, has seen the positive impact of exercise first hand.

"Exercise really keeps diseases at bay," Hinkle said. "The more active you are, then usually, and of course I'm not a doctor, but usually, the less medication you need."

The Front Royal chapter offers three SilverSneakers classes. Two are characterized as "classic," while one is yoga -- it does not include any work on the floor, allowing participants to perform the moves using a chair for support instead.

The classic class involves developing movements that participants will use in their everyday lives.

"They work on their range of movements, balance, agility, coordination," Hinkle said. "I've had people tell me that they avoided going to their favorite restaurants because there were stairs there. But within a few weeks doing this, they could go back there."

Sandra Jenkins, 72, of Flint Hill, said the class allowed her to start taking a smaller dose of her medication.

"My doctor said it was a great thing to do," she said. "And it is -- it has really helped me."

Participants always have sturdy metal chairs to grasp as they do their movements, many of which involve sitting in the chairs and using weights or resistance bands.

Hinkle said the movements they practice are designed to resemble the kind they would have to perform on a regular basis.

"They lift up the weights, and it's like pouring a glass of milk," she said. "Or they step in and out of the bathtub."

Balance is a big part of the class, as well. Hinkle said one participant could not keep his balance before starting the class, but since working with SilverSneakers he has not fallen in a year.

Safety is an important aspect of SilverSneakers, Hinkle said. The program uses a chart with levels of wellness from one to 10: one means they are "good to go," while 10 means emergency crews should be called.

Instructors have to ask participants to rank themselves on the chart throughout the class to ensure they are all still OK with the workout.

SilverSneakers instructor Laura Lantz said the class has not only benefited her participants, but she has felt a benefit from the interaction as well.

"They're as good for me as I am for them," Lantz said. "I teach a lot of classes, but this is my favorite."

"I notice an increase in an overall sense of well-being in them, in their mood," Lantz added.

SilverSneakers is free with a gym membership, and Hinkle pointed out that many older individuals do not realize that their health care programs will oftentimes pay for their memberships -- they just assume they cannot use them.

"They can go to any SilverSneakers class through their health care provider, and many don't even realize it," Hinkle said. "They think going to the gym is intimidating, but these classes aren't intimidating at all."

The classes are offered at 10:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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