How many times have you made the New Year’s resolution to get in shape, but never did? You’re not alone, and as we age, it gets harder and harder. The thought of getting in shape is daunting, and as a result, nothing changes.
Tina Kerns is excited about changing that. Kerns is the program coordinator for Active Aging Programs with Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota. “As soon as I started this position last summer,” Tina said, “I was trained in SAIL (Stay Active and Independent for Life), an evidence-based program that works! Within three weeks, most people in the class notice differences in their strength, flexibility and balance. It’s truly amazing the way seniors are liking this program and getting in shape!”
The free, hour-long SAIL classes include low impact aerobics, balance exercises, strength training with dumbbells and ankle weights, and stretching exercises. The program is able to accommodate people with a mild-level of mobility difficulty, up to those who are regularly active. The exercises focus on improving flexibility, bone and muscle strength, balance and overall fitness.
Kerns said that she knew her mom, Vergene Kelly, would enjoy this kind of exercise class. “When I approached her, she was eager to start a class with her longtime friend Randean Pastwa.” On board with SAIL since day one, Kelly is now one of the instructors who went through training. “This has been the best thing for us seniors,” Vergene said. “It’s really catching on and we’re adding a Friday class starting February 1st. We have nearly 25 participants that come on and off on a regular basis. I personally have seen a significant improvement in my balance. I have neuropathy in my hands and feet and this has completely helped that. My strength is improved as well.
“The benefits are unbelievable. We use hand weights and that really helps build up strength. I guarantee that if you come to the classes, you will see a difference in two weeks. Seriously. What are you waiting for? We have people in their 60s all the way up to 94 years old! Not only do we see physical improvements with everyone who comes, but overall wellness. Just getting out of the house and being around other people is so important. We laugh and have a good time.”
Margaret Miller lives near Canton and heard about the SAIL classes through her church group. They decided as a group to come and see what it was all about. She’s very happy they did! “I can see a huge difference in my balance and strength,” Margaret said. “In the beginning, I had to rely on the chair when we did balance exercises and now, I feel confident and much stronger without the chair. It’s really amazing! We went on vacation and I missed a few classes. When I got back, I could tell a difference. I had lost some strength and balance and had to start from ground zero. Now that’s really telling you something.”
Margaret adds, “As we get older, we tend to shuffle instead of picking up our feet, so having this new balance and ability to walk with more confidence is just incredible. I also love getting out of the house, especially on these cold winter days, and meeting new people and seeing friends. I really look forward to it.
“I truly think these classes are helping people to live independently longer by preventing falls,” Margaret continued. “Falls are the most common reasons that causes us seniors to have to move out of our homes. The older we get, the more our balance gets out of whack. I am so thankful we have these classes. For those of you out there that are considering it, just come!”
Currently their SAIL class is offered Monday and Wednesday from 10-11 a.m. at the Canton Scotland Presbyterian Church. The class is free because of the partnership between the Active Aging Program, the volunteer instructors and the Canton Scotland Presbyterian Church.
“Many of the participants stay afterwards for coffee and social hour,” Kerns said. “The bond that has been built is just as important as the exercise itself. During class you hear them cracking jokes and laughing, they look out for each other and they even named their group the ‘Senior Canton Raiders.’ They are a wonderful group of ladies, though we sure do welcome men if they’d like to come.”
Agreeing with Miller and Kelly, Janey Afseth says, “SAIL is absolutely incredible. I feel better and my balance and strength have greatly improved. I don’t like missing a single class and am happy that they’re adding another one on Fridays. I urge anyone who wants to feel better and have fun while doing it, to give it a try. You’ll never know until you do and it’s free!”
Catholic Charities has other classes in Fillmore County and the Arthritis Foundation sponsors Arthritis classes and a 12-week Fit and Strong class for osteoarthritis sufferers. If you would like more information on any classes or would like to volunteer to lead a class, call Tina Kerns at (507) 251-0520.
Coffee Street Fitness & Dance, 102 Coffee Street in Lanesboro also offers fitness options specifically for seniors. Owner Sandy Tammel knows from experience about making life changes. “I had high cholesterol and triglycerides, became pre-diabetic, and was also dealing with fibromyalgia and arthritis in my hips, knees and low back,” Tammel recalls. “The fibromyalgia and arthritis were getting to the point of becoming so debilitating that it was very hard for me to walk a full block and the medical bills were accumulating.”
“My husband suggested a personal trainer and I reluctantly agreed,” Tammel said. “Within eight months, I lost 60 pounds and felt 30 years younger. It’s amazing how much energy you gain by losing weight and becoming stronger. I got off all my medications. My cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar levels are normal again. Through this experience, I’ve been inspired to help others who want to improve their quality of life.” She has become a certified fitness trainer who also works with people one-on-one.
At Coffee Street Fitness, Tammel teaches Active Senior class on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9-9:45 a.m. for the more active seniors. Then in the afternoon, she teaches a Senior Strength & Balance class from 1-1:45 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she travels to teach Senior Strength & Balance classes sponsored by Catholic Charities at Harmony Community Center from 8:15-9 a.m.; Spring Valley Community Center from 10-10:45 a.m. and Christ Lutheran Church in Preston from 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Coffee Street Fitness also offers the Silver & Fit free membership program for senior citizens. For more information, visit Lanesborofitness.com or call Sandy at (507) 272-3731.
Fit Express also offers programs to meet seniors’ fitness goals, including Silver Sneakers classes with certified instructors. Back in 2002, Linda and Al Mathison of rural Preston, had a dream to bring fitness centers to the small towns in Fillmore County.
They opened their first center in Spring Valley at 109 N. Broadway. The following year, they opened another in Preston, now located at 301 St. Paul St. SW. And in 2015, they opened a third facility in Harmony at 15 West Center. The three fitness centers have 24-hour access, allowing members to exercise during their free time. For more information on classes and membership, visit fitexpressllc.com or call Linda at (507) 251-3822.
There are several other businesses and individual personal trainers that offer fitness options for seniors in Fillmore County. Go online and/or check local listings in your area.