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The key to longevity

Forget pills or crazy concoctions—physical fitness is the key

Created date

May 21st, 2013

June may be men s health month, but at Ashby Ponds, the Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., every month is the perfect time to get up, get active, and stay healthy. The community s on-site, state-of-the-art fitness center and team of highly trained wellness experts supports residents in their efforts. The fitness center definitely encourages us to exercise, says community member David Johnson, who, in addition to visiting the fitness center regularly, also plays tennis and pickle ball with his Ashby Ponds neighbors. Not only is having a fitness center on campus convenient, it is attractively laid out and well equipped, he says. The staff is helpful, encouraging, and very positive. My wife Anne loves the water aerobics, and we ve even taken our grandchildren to the fitness center to enjoy the pool.

Cutting-edge research

Like all Erickson Living communities, Ashby Ponds makes healthy living a top priority. By promoting physical fitness, Ashby Ponds Wellness Manager Gina Muaau hopes to help community members beat the odds. In 2010, the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics reported that only 22% of adults older than 65 engage in physical activity and dwindles down to 11% of adults older than 85. Regular exercise is important for many reasons, says Muaau. Being physically active on a regular basis is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Just 30 minutes of activity a day can make you feel better, sleep better, and look better, and it s free. What a deal! Studies show that exercise provides many health benefits, and even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve health and increase energy. A 2009 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that older adults who exercise not only have an increased life span but also experience a decrease in falls, fractures, and joint and musculoskeletal pain. The research also demonstrated that as little as four hours a week is as effective as more intensive and time-consuming exercise. And the three-year survival rate is three times higher for active 85-year-olds than inactive 85-year-olds. There is so much to gain from exercise, says Muaau. The best part of my job is helping Ashby Ponds community members change their lives. Watching them persevere and tackle new challenges is extremely inspiring. It is so rewarding to see someone begin the journey to a healthier and happier lifestyle, and to witness the transformation of mind and body. Staying active, I believe, has kept us healthy, says David. There are many opportunities to stay active at Ashby Ponds, and the staff does a tremendous job in promoting physical activity and good health.

First steps

Making the decision to begin a new fitness routine can be daunting, but Muaau and her staff do their best to make the experience fun and meaningful. Before beginning any exercise routine, all of our community members need to have their doctor s approval, says Muaau. After that, we welcome them into the fitness center with open arms, introducing them to our staff and sharing what we have to offer. We answer all questions and, in turn, we ask questions to find out how we can best serve the individual s needs. We believe it is important to create personalized fitness plans for each community member, she adds. By doing so, they are less likely to get discouraged or injured while executing workout routines. The wellness staff designed a balance and strengthening program for me, personally taking into account some post-surgery limitations, says community member Nancy Eisenbise. Now, my husband Charles is also working out on the machines to strengthen his legs and arms as well as improve his balance. To help members reach their personal goals, the fitness center is equipped with a variety of state-of-the-art exercise equipment, including Keiser resistance machines, NuSteps, treadmills, and recumbent bikes. In addition, the center also offers a full schedule of group exercise classes ranging from water aerobics to tai chi. The machines are very helpful, says Jan Saferstein. I enjoy using the recumbent bike, treadmill, and weight machines for my legs and upper body. There are lots of classes available; my favorite is aerobics. The staff is always helpful and knowledgeable.

Making it fun

To supplement the fitness center itself, Muaau constantly comes up with a fun activity to get residents involved, says Nancy. Just by keeping the fitness center open and available 24/7 makes a huge difference in encouraging its use. One of the most popular fitness events at Ashby Ponds are the summer olympics, held each year in August. It is one of our best attended events of the year, says Muaau. We offer something for everyone, including balloon volleyball, water volleyball, cornhole, Wii bowling, Frisbee toss, putting, billiards, sponge relay, ping-pong, and a walking relay. We conclude with an awards ceremony complete with the presentation of gold, silver, and bronze medals. It s a wonderful event that encourages movement, socialization, and teamwork. Everyone is a winner at the Ashby Ponds summer olympics. To provide even more ways for the Ashby Ponds community to have fun while being active, bocce and shuffleboard courts were built this spring. They re terrific, says Nancy. Many of us were really looking forward to having these activities accessible right here on campus. The best advice I can give anyone is, don t wait for a fall or for your doctor to order you to start exercising, says Muaau. Start today. Start slowly. Invite friends, and make exercise a standing appointment on your calendar. You ll reap huge benefits, and you ll be so happy you took that first step.

Gina Muaau s tips for ' staying active this summer

1. Save any outdoor activities for the mornings or late evenings. If you like to go for a walk or be out in your garden, try to get out early or later to avoid the mid-day heat. Keep your morning activities between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., and your evening activities after 7 p.m. 2. Stay hydrated. You need four to eight glasses of water a day to stay hydrated, even if you don t feel thirsty. One way to stay on top of hydration is to drink two glasses per meal. And always drink water while exercising.