When it comes to exercise, South County's Art Bernabo advises senior adults to start moving.
"The body is made to move. You have to use it," said Bernabo. In 1998, Bernabo took his own advice. He made a lifestyle change to be more active.
"I eased into it, moving to some degree," he said. "I probably did consistent walking first – five to seven times a week like 20 to 30 minutes.
"The idea that you can maintain cardiovascular health by doing (exercise) two to three times a week does not work for most people," he said. "The more you move it (the body) within reason is the healthy approach for your body's joints, body tissue and your general attitude. A person just feels better."
This 75-year-old's active lifestyle includes, among other things, teaching at the South County YMCA. There he leads classes in exercise, personal training; Livestrong, a program for cancer survivors; and a diabetes prevention program. In 2013 he earned a nutrition and dietetics degree from Maryville University which he also puts into practice.
For senior adults who want to get started on a exercise routine, Bernabo said that SilverSneakers classes at area YMCAs are an excellent place to start. Classes include SilverSneakers Classic and yoga.
"Some health insurance plans will pay for the YMCA membership for the person who has that health insurance," said Bernabo, who is also certified to teach SilverSneakers classes.
SilverSneakers is one of the largest senior-focused exercise program in the United States.
"These classes are terrific and they are crowded," Bernabo noted.
Glendale's Janet Hindle agrees.
For 25 years, she had an active job at Westwood Catering before retiring last year. Knowing it's important to keep active, she attends the Tuesday and Thursday SeniorSneakers Yoga class at the Kirkwood YMCA with her neighbor Mary Walker. At the Y, Hindle found a "wonderful" group and a slower-paced class that provides a soothing, all-over workout.
"Exercise is what it's all about," Hindle said.
Dan O'Neill of Glendale and Kathy Juzenas of Webster Groves found the SilverSneakers Classic class more to their liking.
They get an all-over cardiovascular and strength-building workout while listening to oldies tunes like "Johnny Angel" and "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do." The Tuesday and Thursday classes, led by instructor Mary Beth Wilczak, use hand-held weights, elastic tubing and a SilverSneaker ball. A chair is available for some seated exercises and for support if needed.
Juzenas, 64, said she likes the cardio component of the class the best. She and O'Neill also take a similar class that Wilczak teaches on Mondays at the Webster Y.
"I can go home and feel that I've worked out," Juzenas said. "I'm definitely more productive when I go home."
O'Neill, 75, noted you can make the classes as hard as you want.
O'Neill and Juzenas are regulars at the Y. In addition to Wilczak classes, Juzenas said she just discovered a Zumba class with fun music and moves that are very aerobic.
"I really rely on the Y to get my cardio workout. I walk my dog but he's getting older so that's not much exercise anymore," Juzenas said. "The people here are wonderful. This is a very warm, welcoming place to be."
Before retiring as a teacher from Lindbergh High School, Juzenas said she didn't have much time for exercise.
"I dedicated all my time to teaching," Juzenas said, noting she did dance on Saturday nights until her ankles started bothering her.
When O'Neill retired he decided to get back to exercise. He had started running when he was 38 and did other exercise until he was about 55.
About nine or 10 years ago, O'Neill started taking Wilczek's Monday class. Now he has a "menu" of Y activities from which he tries to do three or four times a week. In addition to the Wilczek's classes, O'Neill walks Tuesday and Thursday mornings with a "very interesting group" from the Y. After their three-mile walk, the walkers meet at Straubs for a "coffee klatch."
Wilczak, a Kirkwood resident, has been teaching exercise classes since 2000. In 2002 she started teaching the Silver Streak class at the Webster Y. In addition to the senior classes, she teaches yoga, step classes and others.
"I enjoy working with the people who come to SilverSneakers," she said. "They seem to be at a place in life where they have time to stop and smell the roses."
The classes become not just physical exercise but a social outlet, she said. "I like that they come and make friends."
One size does not fit all when it comes to an exercise, Wilczak said.
"It depends on what they want to get out of it (the class) and their particular health status," Wilczak said.
Juzenas, for example, has diabetes and finds the cardiovascular workouts help to keep her blood sugar in balance, Juzenas said.
Bernabo advises some level of aerobic exercise to begin a exercise program.
"That might be starting on a treadmill. It depends on how active they currently are," he said.
For those new to exercise, Bernabo cautioned individuals not to overdue it initially and to be adequately hydrated before exercising. Another consideration is the condition of their athletic shoes.
After 500 miles (equals working out three to four times a week for six to nine months), shoes break down and the feet do not get the support they need, Bernabo said, noting this increases the risks of getting foot ailments such as plantar fasciitis.
Sitting Home; Feeling Lousy
For Wilczak it's very gratifying when her students come up after class and tell her when they get good news from their doctor – that their blood work was great, their cholesterol is down or they can now take less medication.
People also come up after class and tell her that they had to force themselves to come to class because their shoulders or knees hurt. But after class they're glad they came.
"They get moving and feel better instead of sitting home and feeling lousy," she said.