Many people feel uncomfortable walking into a gym unless they’re already fit. It’s even more challenging if you feel a little over age. But now, senior residents of Niagara have a new fitness option available to them.
75-year old Shirley Vint barely breaks a sweat bench pressing 40 pounds. A vast improvement from her first gym visit 7 years ago. She took part in a Brock University study: “At that time, they only offered it from 5 to 7 in the evening and I thought I’d never make the few weeks it was for the study. But once I started, it just became part of my life.”
What began as a study into women and osteoporosis has evolved into a senior fit program at the new Brock Niagara Health and Wellbeing Centre. Though run through the university, this gym is off site. A separate entity designed for those 55 and up.
Vint says: “A lot of people will say I don’t want to go to a gym like the one at Brock and see a whole bunch of 20-year olds lifting huge amounts of weight and wearing skimpy little clothes. They aren’t comfortable in that type of setting.”
Kim Gammage is the Director of the senior fit program. She says it’s based on Canada’s physical activity guidelines for older adults, covering cardiovascular training, flexibility with a greater focus on strength and balance: “One of the big risks as we get older is the risk of frailty. Losing muscle mass and that. So we do have a big emphasis on strength training here. The other aspect and what I think makes us unique is the emphasis on balance training.”
The centre is open daily Monday to Saturday. Participants pay a 400 dollar membership fee for the year and can take part in organized classes or workout individually under the guidance of trained student volunteers.
Gammage says: “Our members really like the fact that there is someone around making sure they do things correctly.”
Senior fit is one of several programs operating at the wellbeing centre.
“There is also the cardiac rehab program for individuals suffering from cardiovascular disease. We also have a spinal cord injury rehabilitation program as well. Amputees will be starting here in the new year.”
And it’s also a centre of research, like the osteoporosis study that got Shirley hooked on fitness: “My doctor is just amazed that my bone mass has improved and has held it’s own for this length of time.”
Staff members believe the health and well being centre is meeting a great need in the region. According to Statistics Canada, Niagara has the largest population of senior residents in the province. For those interested in a membership, contact firstname.lastname@example.org