Balance is key for the actively aging

Fitness Instructor, Michael Mitchell, of the Warren Memorial Hospital Outpatient Center, helps Bette Conley, 76, of Warren County, stay balanced on a BOSU ball while she does squats. Kaley Toy/Daily
Fitness Instructor, Michael Mitchell, of the Warren Memorial Hospital Outpatient Center, helps Bette Conley, 76, of Warren County, use a machine designed to test and improve balance. Kaley Toy/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – The fear of falling is a common worry among the aging, but balance training can alleviate these concerns.

Michael Mitchell is a fitness instructor at the Warren Memorial Hospital Outpatient Center in Front Royal, which opened in April 2008, and he helps the actively aging regain control over their bodies.

“It’s a great, well-oiled machine,” he said about how the center is able to operate and help anyone that walks through the door.

One way Mitchell helps the aging improve their balance is through Balance for the Actively Aging, which is a six-week program at the site that helps the aging improve their physical fitness and overall balance, as well as decrease the risk of falls.

“It was very successful last year,” he said.

Bette Conley, 76, of Warren County, has been attending the fitness center since a right knee replacement was performed in 2009. After a few falls, she decided she needed to work on her balance.

“If I don’t exercise, then I’m in trouble,” she said.

One way Mitchell helps Conley regain her balance is through the use of a balance machine. Bette stands on the machine and a screen in front of her displays different training programs to help her achieve better balance once the activity is complete.

Mitchell said Conley is stiff in her ankles and knees and uses exercises focused on strengthening these areas for her.

Her flexibility is also strengthened through the use of stretching techniques. One technique incorporates the use of a BOSU ball. Conley performs squats while remaining balanced on the ball.

Mitchell said, “If you lose your flexibility, you lose mobility.” This loss of mobility can then lead to falls.

Conley hopes to reduce the use of her cane through these exercises. She said she currently only uses her cane when she leaves her house. At home, she said she gets around pretty well, but “furniture surfing” is used when she needs support by using the furniture for support.

Conley plans to continue her fitness training at the center for as long as she can.

Conley said, “As long as I can keep moving, I’m going to keep moving.”

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com

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