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PrimeFit Senior Fitness at Fairwinds Brittany Park

Every Step You Take: PrimeFit Senior Fitness

Alissa Sauer

Being more active is one way to immediately improve your outlook and your attitude throughout the year. Fortunately, residents of Leisure Care communities have plenty of options when it comes to getting fit and maintaining fitness. PrimeFit is Leisure Care’s signature fitness program designed exclusively for seniors. We recently sat down with Lindsy Johanson, PrimeFit Coordinator at Fairwinds – Brittany Park to learn more about this innovative, encouraging, and empowering approach to senior fitness with Leisure Care

Encouraging Senior Fitness with PrimeFit

Unlike most gyms, PrimeFit caters especially to the needs of retirees. You won’t see any iron Adonises pumping heavy metal here. Instead, PrimeFit is all about encouraging activity, ability, and wellness through individual training and group activities.

Recently, we interviewed Lindsy Johanson, a PrimeFit coordinator for Fairwinds – Brittany Park. We wanted to know some of the struggles seniors face in choosing a healthy lifestyle and what seniors can do to meet their fitness goals. Lindsy has been working in PrimeFit for more than three years and brings a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science to her role at her community.

“To be honest, it wasn’t necessarily something that I really pictured myself doing when I was going to school,” Lindsy told us, “But after I graduated, I had the opportunity to work in an injury rehab clinic. That really opened my eyes. I like the type of fitness where people are truly trying to improve themselves—to have a better quality of life.”

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More Than Just Weight Loss

We all know that retirement offers more opportunities to indulge — it is retirement after all! High-calorie coffee drinks, pastries, desserts, and rich meals seem to always be at our beck and call.

There’s also a physiological cause for overindulgence. For many seniors, age brings on a change in palate. We start to crave intense flavors. Those of us who used to skip dessert now find we crave sugar. A turkey sandwich used to be a fine lunch; now only a cheeseburger with fries will do.

“Any weight loss is a little trickier when people get older because you do see the loss of appetite,” Lindsy explains. “And they tend not to eat the most nutritious offering because they’re not always hungry, so they try to reach for the things that are going to taste better with more intense flavors — but that isn’t necessarily the healthiest or the most nutrition-filled food.”

She stresses weight loss shouldn’t be the goal for most individuals entering a fitness program. Overall wellness and improved ability is really what programs like PrimeFit offer participants.

“I’m not a huge believer in weight-loss geared exercise,” she explains. “I try to talk with people and see what it is that they want to change. Are there certain things that they can’t do that they want to be able to do? And then we focus on that. The key to any program (weight loss or not) is just to keep it consistent.”

Facing Emotional Challenges Through Fitness

Lindsy understands that fitness for seniors can be emotionally challenging.

“It is very easy to get discouraged and to lose the motivation because, at an older age, your body doesn’t recover and it doesn’t improve as quickly as a lot of people like to see,” she explains. “People will come in to work out for a couple weeks and, if they don’t see a noticeable change, a lot of times they want to drop out.”

PrimeFit instructors understand the emotional side of working out. They also know that if you stick with a program, change will happen.

“Most of the time, we get comments from the family members,” Lindsy says. “They see a noticeable change in their parents — that they’re able to get around the house more easily, or they seem more active, or even more alert in conversation. It’s harder to see the little changes day by day; but we’ve had people move from their wheelchair to a walker. Or from using a walker to no walker at all,” Lindsy explains.  “It does take longer the older we get, but these little daily changes make a huge difference in life.

When a resident is dedicated to improving their life, it inspires the PrimeFit instructor too.

“When you work with them, they’re working to be able to have better balance or to be able to climb the stairs at a family member’s house, or to get away from using a walker,” she explains. “You see the motivation and know they realize how beneficial this will be in their lives. Even outside of the physical part, they all have amazing stories and most of the training sessions we’re chatting for the full half hour and we exercise during it, and they share all the different stories about their lives. It’s just it’s so interesting to get to know them as people.”

The key to success in PrimeFit is understanding that fitness and wellness are all about embracing an attitude of health. That doesn’t mean adopting an extreme diet or hitting the weight machines or the exercise bike for hours every day.

“I think the biggest thing is just being able to have small goals and being able to show them that their improvement from day one compared to where they are now,” she explains.

Fitness for Every Level

Because PrimeFit is about encouragement and overall fitness, no matter what your speed or your inclination, you can find a form of exercise that will positively impact your lifestyle and your wellbeing. Maybe the idea of personal training is a little intimidating right now, but a stroll with your friends sounds like something you might enjoy. Go for it! Joining the walking group is a step on the path to a healthy lifestyle and definitely part of the PrimeFit program.

Maybe you’ve noticed everyday tasks are getting a little harder. Maybe there’s a particularly persnickety pickle jar that you want to show who’s boss. As we age, because we lose muscle mass, we also begin to lose our ability to lift, grip, walk with an even gait, and maintain our posture. Or maybe you’ve already lost some mobility or your doctor has placed restrictions on your activity. Not to worry. Because PrimeFit focuses on seniors, our instructors know how to adapt their training and group activities for folks with restrictions.

“There are thousands and thousands of exercises that we can do,” Lindsy explains. “It is very rare that I would ever tell someone not to exercise, because there’s always something that you could be doing.”

Getting Started with Your Fitness Program

The first step is to make sure you are ready for physical activity. It’s important to make sure your doctor and your PrimeFit trainer are communicating clearly about your needs and about any restrictions he or she may want to place on your activity. We need to know if there’s any movement or exercise that they shouldn’t do, or, if it’s heart-related if there’s anything that they need to watch out for when they’re exercising.

With the doctor on board with our plan, it’s time to begin. So why is a program like PrimeFit so important? Because going for a brisk walk isn’t going to cut it. To maintain balance and to stay safe, seniors need the muscle mass to be able to lift the weight of their own bodies.

“Many people get out and walk, but that won’t help your muscles maintain their strength,” Lindsy explains. “The only way to do that is to put resistance on the muscle — that’s the only way of growing and getting stronger. If people just get out and walk, but they don’t practice getting up and out of a chair multiple times, they won’t have the ability to get up and out of the chair.

“As people get older,” she continues, “they stop doing all these different things because their ages starting to restrict them or they don’t have the desire to do them. Especially getting down on the floor and getting back up. If you aren’t practicing that movement, your body’s not doing that movement and the muscles aren’t being challenged in order to get yourself up off the floor. It’s important that seniors don’t get weaker and lose the strength to support themselves.”

Really, there’s no excuse for not getting a little more active in your life. Lindsy says “Just get up out of a chair and decide that this time ‘I won’t push off with my arms. I’m just going to make it using my legs only.’ You can exercise anywhere; it’s just a matter of knowing what to do.”

The PrimeFit team in your community is a great resource to help you more good information on improving your physical health and your quality of life.

Contact Fairwinds – Brittany Park to learn more about their PrimeFit program.

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