Steamboat Springs Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series of profiles about Aging Well fitness and wellness class instructors in Routt and Moffat counties. This feature appears monthly on the Aging Well page.
Class: Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, Tai Chi for Health
Where: Moffat County
Denise McDonald prides herself on helping people feel good inside and out.
Three years ago, McDonald, a Mary Kay consultant, began leading Aging Well fitness classes for older adults in Craig. Like her beauty supplies, the classes were another tool to boost older adults’ confidence as well as their strength and overall health.
McDonald is a certified instructor of Arthritis Foundation Exercise, a gentle program aimed at improving older adults’ strength and flexibility to create less joint pain and better mobility.
She also leads Arthritis Foundation’s Tai Chi for Health, which takes advantage of tai chi’s flowing movements to encourage better balance, flexibility, strength and a more positive, relaxed state of mind.
“I think the best part is watching people improve their fitness level so they can stay more active and independent,” McDonald said.
By using their muscles and coordination to achieve various exercises, older adults can more easily enjoy daily living while reducing their risk of debilitating falls.
An icy cold Wednesday was not enough to keep older adults in Craig recently from happily exercising with McDonald during a beginning Arthritis Foundation Exercise class.
Seated in a large circle, they chatted and joked as she led them through gentle movements easing joints, muscles and minds into the routine.
“I think the thing they enjoy most is the camaraderie and the social connection,” McDonald said.
McDonald understands the prospect of doing something new with a group of people may be intimidating for some individuals. She wants prospective participants to know that Aging Well classes are welcoming and supportive, and students watch out for one another.
“They should know that it’s a relaxed environment — there’s no competition, and they’ll love meeting the people that are there,” said McDonald, who is willing to go the extra mile to get new participants in her class.
“If they are unsure, I’ll come pick them up.”
The Aging Well program and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association sincerely thank the many individuals and organizations who contribute funds toward our fitness and wellness programs. We appreciate your generosity and continued support for our efforts to keep older adults healthy, happy and independent in our communities.
Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program and Tai Chi for Health classes are ongoing in Craig, Steamboat, Hayden, Oak Creek and/or Yampa. Classes are open to anyone ages 50 and older. Beginning and advanced classes are available. Most classes are available for a small donation. Call 970-871-7676.
Classes: Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, Tai Chi for Health
Where: Routt County
Deanna Berry’s foray into fitness started with a lonely empty nest and painfully stiff joints.
She began attending Arthritis Foundation Exercise at the Oak Creek Community Center, where she found seemingly easy movements, such as touching her heel to her knee, were difficult.
“I know that seems like a simple thing to do, but I couldn’t do it,” she said.
Berry’s frustration gradually turned to relief as she became stronger and more flexible. This experience put her in an ideal position to help others overcome poor health and isolation.
“It helped me so much, and I could see there was a need for it in our community,” she said.
She has been leading Arthritis Foundation Exercise and Tai Chi for Health in Oak Creek and Yampa for about two years.
Her classes attract dedicated residents that enjoy exercising, seeing friends and participating in other activities held after Berry’s classes. These activities include lunches provided by the Routt County Council on Aging, wellness checks and guest speakers at the Community Center on Mondays.
“I get a kick out of interacting with seniors,” Berry said. “It’s good for them to realize they can still do a lot of things they used to do if they stay in shape.”
Strength and mobility is important in keeping older adults independent, but shoveling snow once and awhile is not good enough. Regular, gentle exercise will help older adults achieve better health results safely, Berry said.
“To me, exercise is good for your mind, and it’s good for your body,” she said. “If you don’t keep them both going, you’ll be in trouble.”
Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. For more information, visit www.agingwelltoday.com or call 970-871-7606.