Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 22, 2012

Senior Focus: Take Wellness Challenge

BY KATHLEEN GEST, Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — Throughout society, many people assume that getting weaker, stiffer and heavier is inevitable with aging. Growing research, however, suggests that physical decline for an older American actually comes from being sedentary.

One of the easiest and most effective methods for living a healthy lifestyle is available right now. As many gerontologists and researchers have found, the closest thing to an anti-aging pill is regular exercise. Evidence indicates that physical exercise can prevent or reverse up to half of the physical decline normally associated with aging. The level of physical activity needed to produce health benefits is easy to attain with low-intensity activities.

People who are physically fit and eat a healthy, balanced diet have the potential to be 10 to 20 years younger biologically than their chronological age. It doesn't matter if you were once physically active when you were younger. If you're not currently engaged in a physical activity program on a regular basis, your body is not receiving the health-related benefits of exercise.

The Senior Center Network cares about your health and has initiated a new free wellness program, starting in January of 2013. The Wellness + You program is based on a point system and is designed to help you achieve all of your personal fitness and wellness goals, encouraging you to keep fit and healthy.

Each month you will receive a points tracking sheet to maintain. At the end of the month, you turn in your completed tracking sheet to the office. The points you accumulate each month are eligible for prizes, which will be awarded at the end of the year.

How do you earn points?

Activity points are awarded for strength training exercises — 15 minutes of continuous duration strength training, using free weights, weight machines, floor-based body weight activities, tubing or other forms of non-weight resistance; cardiovascular — activities include cycling, rowing, jogging/running walking, swimming, elliptical machine, etc; group exercises — low impact, country line dancing, Pilates, yoga, etc; stretching and flexibility — stretching exercises that you can do on your own, such as yoga, tai chi, stretching DVDs and similar programs; and sports — includes traditional sports with continuous activity such as tennis, pickle ball, basketball, etc.

Any activity that involves gross motor movement not broken up by periods of sitting, including gardening, table tennis, shuffleboard, softball, golfing (no cart), horse shoes and the like, will earn points. You can also garner points for nutrition by eating up to three vegetables and two fruits a day.

Another category to earn points is for massage, reflexology, wellness presentations given each month at the senior center locations or in the community, volunteering and charity-sponsored walks and runs.

In addition, health points will be awarded for blood pressure checks, dental exams, eye exams, physical exams and special health screenings for glaucoma, mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.

It is hard to tell whether the benefits of group exercise competitions are derived from the physical movement or the social interaction, but experts agree that the support, variety and motivation a group competition provides can help improve physical and mental health, along with creating lasting exercise routines. Having something or someone to encourage you to follow a wellness program produces quicker results than doing it on your own.

Besides, a group wellness program is a great way to meet like-minded and like-motivated individuals. Sharing common goals and interests can be a great motivator to complete the program — challenging each individual to work harder toward a good physical condition and mental soundness.

So, do you want to feel better by nourishing your body, mind and spirit? Join the Senior Center Network's new Wellness + You program. Any senior center member is eligible to participate.

Not a member? It's easy to join. To learn more about this exciting new program, call 922-4911, visit in person or email: