PART 1: Social worker talks about being fit while you sit
Sweating was the last plan I had when I went to the Murray Street Senior Citizens Center.
The bright red sign shouted the name when I came to the back door. Two men sat on the bench smiling, and I entered the dining room filled with people waiting for my co-worker, Rita Williams - or as the man at the door said, "The Exercise Lady." I was there for "Sit and Fit."
I moved in trying to be nonchalant, but I didn't quite fit in at the Murray Street Senior Center. I was welcomed all the same, and I watched in awe as Rita bragged to them about bringing in the Celine Dion music super-pack.
The room quieted. Those who didn't quiet down were called out by Rita.
"OK," she said. "We are starting, and if you are not exercising, then zip it please because we start by warming up soft."
All eyes were on Rita, and she was in command as she led the room in warm-up exercises in a chair. Rita, who works as the Director for Community Relations at AARN Health Services, has been the volunteer "Sit and Fit" leader for four years. The warm-up song was "The Man in the Mirror," by Michael Jackson, and I could see a lot of people singing along as they exercised in their chairs.
Most of the room was participating, and that meant almost 40 senior citizens moving and strengthening their bodies in a safe way.
Exercise directly benefits seniors, maintaining not only physical ability but also cognitive abilities. Regular exercise has the greatest positive effect on maintaining cognitive health more than any other activity. Exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system, which maintains necessary blood flow to the brain. (Powell, 2004)
I was standing by the door when I heard Rita say, "You too, Sciba!" She was patting a chair next to her, and I laughed as I claimed my chair in front and pretended to know what I was doing. I knew Rita was a former aerobics teacher, but I'm more of a yoga-doing and jogging kind of gal.
I was awkward, but I tried to follow along. I forgot how much I liked that Michael Jackson song. I've actually been singing it for weeks now. The sweating began when we started doing the YMCA. I was impressed with everyone's letter formation except for mine.
All of a sudden, Latin music came through the speakers, and our friends began to slowly get up. "It's time for the cumbia, people. Time to move," Rita said.
Read next week's column to find out if I became a Latin dancer.
Source: Cassel, C. K. (2003). "Geriatric Medicine: An Evidence-based Approach. Springer;" Powell, Douglas H. "Cognitive Aging." (2004). In Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology. Retrieved from http://lib.ollusa.edu:2048/login?url=http://www.credoreference.com/entry/estappliedpsyc/cognitive_aging
Katie Sciba is a writer, a licensed social worker, a pastor's wife and a mother from Victoria. She works for AARN Health Services and blogs online at Always Simply Begin.