Fitness for the Ages

There are 25 steps up to the Tru Fit Personal Training Studio in Evanston.

But the climb is not intimidating to Steffie Masur, 86, of Evanston, who willingly scales the stairs two times a week to work out with trainer Anne Monma.

Steffie explains that she has always been active. When she stopped playing tennis some years ago – and following two hip replacements – she began visiting the studio to work out with Anne.  “I never stopped being active,” says Steffie.  “My advice is to keep moving and don’t ever stop.”

The reality is many seniors have never exercised and have become sedentary. That lifestyle leads to loss of flexibility, weight gain and joint pain. Despite the age-defying benefits of getting fit, seniors are the least physically active of all Americans. Forty percent of women and 30 percent of men over 70 report that they never exercise.

How Do I Start?
Exercise can become a way to socialize and increase endurance. The trick is to get started.  Entry level fitness classes are open to seniors throughout the North Shore.  Some locations include the Levy Senior Center in Evanston, the YMCA and the North Shore Senior Center (NSSC) that offers a “Sit and Get Fit” class,” designed to improve muscle tone, strength and stamina.

“Whatever you are willing to do to stay physically active counts,” says Jackie Nitsche, a fitness specialist at the NSSC.

If you’re not the social type, consider these simple at-home exercises recommended by Anne Monma:

  • While seated, trace the alphabet with your toes
  • Make “snow angels” with your arms
  • Extend your legs and stretch
  • Simply stand up and sit down – repeatedly
  • Walk…as much as possible!

Easier Than You Think
Think that a fitness routine is impossible?  Wrong, according to 82-year-old Clare Greenberg, who also works out with Anne once a week. Clare, who lives in the Sauganash neighborhood of Chicago, began seeing Anne three years ago at the urging of her son and daughter in law.  “My motto is, something is better than nothing,” she explains.  “I know exercise is beneficial and I feel better.”

Megan Maurer, owner of Tru Fit, believes that most seniors are doing ineffective workouts.  She says that people need to challenge themselves; pick up the pace and walk longer.  “Balance is the key for seniors,” advises Megan.  “I work with seniors on strengthening their ankles and their hand grip.  If they become unstable the ability to hold on to a railing or other support is really important.”

Beginners may want to join a senior-friendly gym with weight machines that allow 1- or 2-pound increments and trainers knowledgeable about arthritis, osteoporosis, and other health conditions.

Visit our Better List for additional fitness and senior living resources.