SAP Area Seniors tailored exercise programs

By Dave Healy

Exercise.

We know that it’s good for us, know that we rarely get enough by going about our daily activities, know that exercising our bodies means exercising our wills by finding the time and mustering the motivation to do it regularly.

Physical well-being is tied to mental health. When our bodies feel good, when they do what we want them to do, we feel better emotionally, more alert and confident.

Physical exercise is important at any age, especially as we age and often tend to become, increasingly, sedentary. Muscles atrophy. Posture worsens. Some older people, while still ambulatory, feel less confident moving about because their balance isn’t what it used to be.

St. Anthony Park Area Seniors provides three activities specifically geared for seniors.

Chair Yoga

The oldest of these is chair yoga, which was started in 2015. It’s always been led by Niza Hanany, first as a volunteer and now as SAPAS’s service coordinator. She has yoga instructor certification from the Wingate Institute for Excellence in Sports, in Israel.

For four years, twice-monthly chair yoga sessions were held at the St. Anthony Park Branch Library. Since the onset of COVID-19 restrictions, one-hour sessions have been conducted weekly via Zoom. Currently, virtual chair yoga has 28 participants.

Chair yoga, like any form of yoga, can improve flexibility and strength. But rather than being practiced on a mat or the floor, it’s done while seated or using a chair for balance.

Falcon Heights resident Lillian Noble says the chair yoga class “has transformed my Mondays. I feel alert and ready to tackle the world.”

Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance

In 2020, SAPAS began offering Zoom sessions of Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance. Developed by Dr. Fizhong Li, TJQMBB is an evidenced-based program shown to improve balance, lower-extremity strength and gait in older adults.

For three years, TJQMBB was conducted through Juniper, a nonprofit that offers health and wellness activities. Now SAPAS has its own TJQMBB license and conducts sessions independently.

The class is led by SAPAS’s volunteer coordinator, Alisa Jesse. She completed a two-day training session through Juniper and has taken three refresher classes. The current class has 12 members.

Shirley Soderstrom, of Lauderdale, learned that “movement does not have to be fast to be helpful in gaining strength and coordination.” She added, “I’m more likely to do these exercises since I have a class at a specific time to attend.”

Walk With Ease

The newest exercise activity offered by SAPAS is Walk With Ease, which was developed by the Arthritis Foundation, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sessions took place at Como Lake in the summer of 2021 and 2022. Another is planned for 2023. They’re led by Hanany, who was certified through Juniper.

Participants learn how to walk safely, comfortably and at their own pace and how to improve balance and strength. They meet at the Como Lakeside Pavilion and engage in a brief warm-up activity. Then they walk around the lake at their own pace, and as far as they feel comfortable going.

Part of the philosophy of Walk With Ease, and indeed all SAPAS exercise activities, is that engaging in physical exercise is easier, more enjoyable and often more effective if it’s scheduled and done with other people.

Falcon Heights resident Shirley Reider says that Walk With Ease has motivated her to continue walking.    

Reider, who participates in all three exercise activities, says that all of them “deal with different aspects of balance and strength. Experiencing all of these has really made a difference in my physical well-being.”

All SAPAS exercise activities are free and open to all ages. First priority is given to seniors ages 60 and older living in the SAPAS service area: St. Anthony Park, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights west of Cleveland Avenue. For more information, contact SAPAS: office@SAPASeniors.org, 651-642-9052. 

Dave Healy lives in St. Anthony Park and is a former editor of the Park Bugle.

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