Howard Magazine - Page 43 - Fitness For The Ages

Howard Magazine
- Page 43
Fitness For The Ages

By John-John Williams IV Howard Magazine
Photos By Barbara Haddock Taylor


Holly Thomas is deceptively strong. Standing five feet tall and not even close to 100 pounds, the Columbia resident won’t share her exact age, but she’s over 75 and able to keep up with her 20-something grandsons on family vacations. That means she’s biking with them on the roads of Japan or exploring Sri Lanka and Thailand on foot.


“They’re proud of me,” says the former trial attorney, who’s still a member of the D.C. bar association.


She attributes her physical prowess to working out with her trainer at least twice a week. It isn’t always easy, though.


“Is it hard to go two or three times a week? Yes. Sometimes you’d rather be in bed,” Thomas admits. “But it’s exercise or atrophy. I’m too busy for atrophy.”


As seniors live longer, they are increasing their focus on fitness to preserve a better quality of life, experts and seniors say. A number are seeking personal trainers who are sensitive to the needs of this demographic, such as mobility, balance, joint strength and muscle retention.


Thomas’ trainer, Denise Jenkins, 60, says she started seeing an increase in the number of seniors in the gym 10 years ago. Now, 70 percent of her clients are seniors.


“Now that there are a lot more baby boomers, there are a lot more of us in the gym looking for us to get that help — to get healthy,” says the Columbia Association trainer. “I’ve had them say that they didn’t want to work with a 20-year-old. They preferred someone in their age range. They just need that motivation and guidance.”


In addition to combating nagging injuries, Jenkins says, her older clients focus on muscle and bone strength while setting lifestyle goals, like climbing Machu Picchu. For Thomas, it was being able to pull herself in and out of SUVs while roaming the African terrain during a safari.


“Usually, if they are consistently in here — two to three times a week — within a month, they are feeling a difference. [Losing] five pounds can make a major difference in aches and pains,” says Jenkins, who receives clients through doctor referrals and through CA’s Supreme Sports Club.


In addition to lowering one’s risk of a number of health conditions, regular exercise can help seniors remain independent longer and decrease the likelihood that they’ll end up in the hospital or in a nursing home, says Dr. Brock Beamer, an internist who specializes in geriatrics at the Baltimore VA Medical Center.


“Very often it’s a strong motivator for people to start exercising,” he says.


“Clearly doing aerobic exercise has been long known to have great benefit to your longevity, to your risk of cardiovascular disease, to your risk for stroke. The more active you are, the better the benefit.”


Mobility, posture and strength are the biggest fitness goals for seniors, trainers say.


“Working on their mobility is really important,” says Elizabeth Harris, a 51-year-old trainer who primarily works at the Columbia Gym in Clarksville. Harris says she prefers “functional