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OLDER PEOPLE MOTIVATED TO STAY FUNCTIONALLY FIT
Workouts help seniors lead the lives they want

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Date published: 1/31/2010


BY HEATHER BRADY


Connie Ihlenfeld knows exactly what to do when she hits the gym for her weekly workout routine. That’s because the 68-year-old found her ideal personal trainer nine years ago and has been working with her ever since.

At 68 herself, trainer Barb Holcombe knows that Ihlenfeld’s goal is not to buff up, but to remain healthy enough to do the things she enjoys.

That’s the case with most of Holcombe’s clients at Fredericksburg’s Sport & Health Club in Central Park. Holcombe works with people who are at least 40, and often in their 60s.

“They’re here because they feel weak and can’t do what they used to,” Holcombe said. “Younger people just want to look good in that bikini or get rid of that slight beer belly. Older people want their health back.”

People notice a difference in what their bodies are able to do with each passing decade, Holcombe said.

“It’s always a shock,” she said. “Younger people don’t have a clue what’s coming.”

At a stage of life when many people prefer one-story houses because of physical limitations, Ihlenfeld and her husband recently bought a three-story waterfront house. The house has a built-in elevator, but Ihlenfeld said it has gone virtually unused because she’s in good shape.

“We’ve used it twice to move furniture,” she said.

WEAKNESS NOT INEVITABLE

As people age, they’re more susceptible to conditions like arthritis that make it tougher for them to be active. It’s also natural for people to lose strength and flexibility, says mayoclinic.com.

In general, older people also suffer a reduced sense of balance. And that leaves them vulnerable to falling and breaking bones—notably, their hips.

But while many symptoms of aging are natural, people’s exercise and eating habits can have a big effect on how well their bodies hold up.

Dr. Wayland Marks, a Fredericksburg geriatrician, said many of the problems that older adults face are a direct result of not exercising and not eating well throughout their lives.

“In our society, it’s pretty common to have a high-calorie diet,” said Marks, of Geriatric Consultants of Fredericksburg.

Marks also emphasized that people tend to move less and become more sedentary as they get older, and this contributes to the mobility problems and weakness that many experience in their 70s and 80s.


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