Oregon seniors stay active through martial arts

Staying active and engaged are important parts of a healthy lifestyle for seniors, and one group of older adults in Oregon has found a unique way to do both. A number of older adults are getting exercise through self defense training, more specifically the martial art of aikido stick fighting, reports The Associated Press.

The students aren't the only ones who are seniors. The class' instructor, Ann Fillmore, is 70 and she says her 10-week program offers a number of benefits. While she goes over the ins and outs of safety, she says the physical rewards of her classes are even more important than the self defense instruction.

"The confidence is astounding," she told the AP. "It is more than the common term 'self-confidence.' It is physical confidence."

It's not hard to understand why her classes encourage seniors to get around more confidently. The exercises use elements of tai chi and place an emphasis on strength and balance, two of the most crucial elements in helping seniors avoid falls.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults over 65, and exercise has proven to be one of the best ways to prevent them. Though any physical activity offers benefits, Fillmore has struck the right chord focusing on strength and balance.

Still, while martial arts provide strength and balance training, the exercise does not have to be quite that strenuous, according to U.S. News and Health Report. Activities such as standing on one foot at a time for 30 seconds or just focusing on a point in the wall can yield significant benefits.

"You're getting the body to be aware of itself in space," athletic trainer Joseph Scott told the publication.