Fit through mo­tion

Pro­gram takes preven­ta­tive ap­proach to what ails the aging

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

Form­ing a cir­cle in­side a high school gym­na­sium, a group of women move rhyth­mi­cally to the sounds of Boney M’s disco hit “Daddy Cool.”

Many of them are of the age such that in the mid-1970s, they may have been spot­ted danc­ing at clubs to the same song. In this case though, mov­ing along to the four-on-the-floor beat is not just about hav­ing a good time.

The Lo­cal Mo­tion group meets ev­ery Mon­day evening at Cres­cent Col­le­giate in Blake­town. Its goal is to ed­u­cate, mo­ti­vate and en­cour­age par­tic­i­pants to stay fit and lead a healthy life­style in or­der to avoid chronic dis­eases and other health is­sues com­monly as­so­ci­ated with aging.

“Pre­ven­tion is a lot bet­ter than try­ing to find a cure af­ter­wards,” notes Betty Jones, a co-leader of the group.

Jones and Cyn­thia Rus­sell have jointly led the group as vol­un­teers ever since it first started in 2005. They both com­pleted a one-day Eastern Health train­ing course through the Mov­ing for Health ini­tia­tive. The Canadian Cen­tre for Ac­tiv­ity and Aging at West­ern Uni­ver­sity later pro­vided them with fur­ther train­ing rel­e­vant to car­dio fit­ness. Jones and Rus­sell also learned about ac­tiv­i­ties to pro­mote en­durance, flex­i­bil­ity, bal­ance and strength.

them about things to con­sider when it comes to those habits.

The size of the group has var­ied over the years, with as many as 25 par­tic­i­pants get­ting in­volved. At­ten­dance usu­ally picks up af­ter Christ­mas once peo­ple start act­ing on New Years res­o­lu­tions. Th­ese days, you can find about a dozen women in­side the gym­na­sium when the ses­sion starts at 6:30 p.m., with par­tic­i­pants rang­ing in age from 50 to 84.

“We tell ev­ery­one to do it at their own pace,” said Rus­sell, adding that they dis­cour­age peo­ple from tak­ing on a com­pet­i­tive at­ti­tude to­wards the ac­tiv­i­ties.

The pro­gram has made a dif­fer­ence in the lives of oth­ers. But that doesn’t hap­pen with­out some hard work.

“You have to be con­sis­tent,” said Rus­sell. “If you just say you’re com­ing be­cause you’ve got a wed­ding next month, that’s not go­ing to work for you. It’s a com­mit­ment.”

The fact that there’s a sense of ca­ma­raderie within the group helps when it comes to en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to keep com­ing back, ac­cord­ing to Jones.

See “I al­ways say to peo­ple, ‘Come along … We can only guar­an­tee you will feel bet­ter when you leave than you did when you came,’” said Rus­sell, who also notes sim­i­lar groups are meet­ing in Nor­man’s Cove and Har­bour Grace.

They do some warm up ac­tiv­i­ties as a group, start­ing with a walk be­fore get­ting into dif­fer­ent move­ments and stretches to in­crease car­dio­vas­cu­lar health. They move on to a cool down ac­tiv­ity, fol­lowed by floor ex­er­cises that uti­lize a flex­i­ble band to pull against your own body weight as a means to in­crease strength.

Rus­sell notes that ex­er­cise is proven to be par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive when it comes to com­bat­ing the ef­fects of arthri­tis by strength­en­ing lig­a­ments and joints in the body.

“We try and do the ed­u­ca­tion bit when we’ve got them in our group and about how walk­ing just low­ers your blood pres­sure,” she said.

They also pro­mote healthy eat­ing and have en­cour­aged group mem­bers to use eat­ing di­aries to track what they con­sume, af­ter­wards talk­ing with

PHOTO BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COMPASS

Betty Jones, sec­ond from the left, and Cyn­thia Rus­sell, far right, co-lead the Lo­cal Mo­tion group that meets Mon­day evenings at Cres­cent Col­le­giate in Blake­town.

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