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Get active and stay healthy

Staying active is important for you -- no matter what age. But for elders, staying active can be the gateway to an improved quality of life.

Certified yoga therapist Michele Hoffman has been teaching therapeutic yoga for 15 years including 11 years of instructing seniors and owns Bluff Country Yoga specializing in people over the age of 50.

She also has completed a four-year program in yoga therapy including an in-depth study of anatomy, physiology and psychology.

Improving flexibility is a major benefit of staying active, Hoffman explains.

"If we are stiff and experience pain in our joints, we don't want to move. Lack of movement probably ages a person more than any one thing that I can think of," she said. "If you're flexible, you're able to do activities that are fun for you such as gardening, dancing, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, walking, etc."

The Red Wing Senior Center, Jordon Towers and Red Wing YMCA all offer classes to help and encourage seniors to keep or stay active.

"I think it is helpful for seniors to join an exercise class with an instructor who is knowledgeable about adapting to their individual needs and is experienced working with seniors," Hoffman said, who also teaches a yoga class at the Senior Center. "A group class also gives them a social outlet; they support one another and it's more fun than exercising alone. Having an exercise buddy helps make activity more fun and safer too."

During a Wednesday morning Active Older Adults class at the Senior Center, laughter is mixed in with the rep counts.

"The people in my classes are so inspirational," instructor Martha Harris said. She is also the healthy living director at the Red Wing Family YMCA.

She agrees in the importance of joining in a group class.

"The support of others, having regularly scheduled exercise times and knowing what to do are key for getting the benefits," Harris said.

YMCA member Susan Kolberg explains the benefits of her group class experience.

"I have been battling chronic illness and joined the YMCA in January. Group classes really make a difference, because there is an energy generated in the group with music, other participants and someone leading you," she said. "Having a class, I know that there is someone there to help me, meeting me halfway by providing the leadership and giving time and energy on a regular schedule to support me. I have a community here."

Another option for seniors to stay active do it is safely is yoga. Moves can be designed specifically for an individual's needs and circumstances.

"Yoga improves balance to prevent falls and it is weight-bearing so it increases bone density," Hoffman said. "Research has shown that yoga can reverse osteoporosis."

The opportunities to exercise are out there. It is up to each individual or family member to make the effort.

So, how can you recommend a group class or some type of physical activity to a parent, grandparent or loved elder?

"Sometimes you have to be a little sneaky about it," Harris said. "Set up a coffee get-together with your parents and some of their peers that are already exercising - have them invite your mom or dad to join them."

Something as easy as a gift certificate for a class or private yoga lesson can go a long way. Try going to the first class with them to get them started.

"Encourage them to join a senior center or participate in a fitness program for seniors," Hoffman added.

Staying enthused about exercise can be challenging over a period of time. To keep inspired - just look down at your family.

"Grandchildren are a great motivator. People want to be able to get down on the floor and play with their grandchildren," Hoffman said.

"People also have improved quality of life such as being able to more easily get up out of a chair or out of the car, they can take a bath because they are strong enough to get out of the bathtub; they can turn their head more easily to look behind them when driving their car. These things seem small but they really add to a person's quality of life," she added.

"The physical activity is really helping," Kolberg said. "It gives me hope for a better future. As I become active I set new goals for myself."

Opportunities to stretch yourself

Active classes for seniors

Active Older Adults

Get fit and stay healthy. The class includes low-impact aerobics, strength training and stretching.

When: 9 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays

Where: Senior Center, 1407 W. Fourth St.

Cost: Non-YMCA members pay $30 for 20 sessions

Gentle Yoga for Seniors

Learn gentle yoga postures with yoga therapist Michele Hoffman. Start anytime.

When: 9:30-10:45 a.m. Tuesdays

Where: Senior Center, 1407 W. Fourth St.

Cost: $45 individuals, $80 couples

Exercise class

Daily exercise class where everyone is encouraged to only do the moves they feel comfortable doing.

When: 10 a.m. Monday-Friday

Where: Sailstad Room in Jordon Towers, 400 block of West Fifth Street

More info: 651-267-5425


Have fun and move to the music through a variety of exercises designed to increase muscular strength, range of movement and activity for daily living skills. Or combine fun with fitness to increase your cardiovascular and muscular endurance power with a standing circuit workout.

Where: YMCA, 434 Main St.

More info: 651-388-4724


Activate your aqua exercise urge for variety. SilverSplash offers lots of fun and shallow water moves to improve agility, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. No swimming ability is required and a special kickboard is used to develop strength, balance, and coordination.

Where: YMCA, 434 Main St.

More info: 651-388-4724

Chair yoga

This class is perfect for students with physical challenges that find it difficult to get on and off the floor as required for a traditional yoga class. Exercises explore and enhance a greater range of movement while protecting the back and joints by easing carefully in to yoga postures with chair support.

Where: YMCA, 434 Main St.

More info: 651-388-4724

Bluewater Yoga Studio

There are specialty classes every weekday. They include strength and balance on Thursdays. People may sign up for a class or pay a $15 drop-in rate.

When: 4:30 p.m.

Where: 323 1/2 Main St.

More info: or 651-388-6099

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

(651) 301-7880