Sit down and exercise
Senior citizens stay fit and flexible with ‘Sittercise’ routine
At Wildflower Lodge in La Grande, residents engage in a vigorous routine of seated exercises called “Sittercise” that helps kick-start their metabolism, builds strength and increases joint flexibility for the rest of the day.
Wildflower Lodge Community Relations Director Ann Yoder said the daily exercise routine helps residents remain mobile and independent.
“It keeps them independent enough to transfer from chair to chair on their own,” she said. “That motion is key to remaining independent. People don’t recognize how important it is to be able to get on and off a chair. That up and down lifting motion is one goal of physical therapy, and it’s what keeps you independent.”
Activity Director Eric Coon puts Sittercise at the top of the daily list of activities offered at the assisted living community.
“Routine and repetition is important,” said Coon. “Our residents’ ability to be mobile is their independence. The moment a resident loses the ability to get out of a chair — it’s a really hard moment for them (emotionally) — suddenly they need help with everything. So the longer they can stay mobile, the happier they are and the more independent they remain.”
Sittercise is a good way to do that and a great cardiovascular workout. Each resident demonstrates different levels of motor skills and flexibility.
“There are at least four residents in the group that would normally be napping in the morning if I didn’t get them out to do this,” said Coon. “After Sittercise, they will be more active throughout the day.”
Resident Iris (Lyon) Leonard, 93, is one of the most advanced participants in the group. She can keep up and perform the entire 25-minute exercise routine, and it helps her remain active and limber.
“I try to get here for Sittercise every day,” she said. “I was raised on a farm, and I miss being able to get exercise outdoors.”
Sittercise utilizes about 50 different aerobic motions in the upper and lower body. It is accompanied by music and a male narrator who describes each movement. The “regular attenders” know the routine by heart, and they thrive on what is familiar and repetitious.
Coon gets the group started with a ball tossing activity that gets their eye-hand coordination tuned up. As residents sit facing each other, they choose who they want to toss and bounce the ball to so everyone must remain alert to catch it on the rebound.
“Keeping flexible is a very important thing for our residents,” Coon said. “Arthritic hands and stiff joints must be used. There is truth to the saying, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,’ so we have a hand-slapping motion that we do in Sittercise that keeps the wrists flexible.”
To avoid losing the flexibility of the joints, Sittercise has several repetitive movements that keep the joints and ligaments loose. One motion is called the “bicycle riding” motion, with the legs up off the floor and cycling. Another motion flexes the ankles and toes, pushing the range of motion as far as possible for each resident.
With arms extended in front and upward, Coon teaches the residents the “windshield wiper” movement. This cardiovascular movement increases blood circulation and works shoulder muscles. Thighs are strengthened when residents lift their legs out straight in front of them and do the “flutter kick” exercise.
During Sittercise, Coon leads the group in a foot shuffle movement. Sounds simple, but it actually tests body and mind coordination. Residents have to demonstrate mental concentration to do this exercise.
A great benefit to senior fitness exercises is that it elevates the mood of the resident and boosts the immune system, Coon said. The mind-body connection has been undisputedly linked to better health, happiness and mobility. Residents at Wildflower Lodge who engage regularly in the Sittercise activity see personal benefits that affect both their body and disposition.
Resident Jessie Gibbs, who turned 100 years old on March 18, is a prime example of a senior who begins her day in motion and stays in motion. Gibbs participates in the morning Sittercise classes, and when it comes to the leg stretch and kick part of the routine, Gibbs’ dancing background comes to the fore with something that resembles a can-can kick.
After Sittercise, Gibbs isn’t done moving though. She spends most of each day walking the hallways, staying in motion. Eight rounds about the building is one mile of walking, Yoder said. Gibbs puts the miles on — not bad for a former dancer who is blind. She uses her special walking cane to guide her around other residents and hallway furniture.
Keeping mobile means staying happy and independent. Sittercise is one way seniors can do that wherever they live. To observe Sittercise classes and learn more about senior fitness, visit Wildflower Lodge, 508 16th St., La Grande, or contact Coon at 541-663-1200.