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‘Keep moving’

Low-impact exercise classes at Seabrook offer well-rounded fitness

Created date

July 20th, 2016
Seabrook priority list member Jim McCorkel (left) teaches qigong to Bernard Degnan and Bea Yeamans, who live at the Tinton Falls, N.J., community.

Seabrook priority list member Jim McCorkel (left) teaches qigong to Bernard Degnan and Bea Yeamans, who live at the Tinton Falls, N.J., community.

When Ben Yeh moved to Seabrook 13 years ago and started teaching tai chi, he simply did it to contribute to his fellow community members and “because I have to exercise myself, too,” he says.

Little did he know that he was starting a low-impact exercise movement that would sweep the Tinton Falls, N.J., Erickson Living community by storm. 

Today, twelve and a half years since Ben started teaching at Seabrook, residents can take tai chi, qigong, chair yoga, or chair Pilates from a calendar of on-site weekly wellness classes. 

They can also participate in aqua aerobics and strength training; meditation; and Ageless Grace, a chair-based class designed to exercise the body and mind. 

And that’s just the low-impact portion of the fitness and wellness calendar, which also includes ballroom and square dancing, Zumba, “Stretch and Tone,” and others.

“Low-impact exercises are ideal for older adults because they can get the physical and mental benefits of exercise without hurting themselves,” says Seabrook Fitness Coordinator Lauren Welch. “As we age, our bone mass decreases as well as our stamina and balance. These are inevitable changes that come along with the aging process. Exercising regularly can help slow down these processes and make our bones stronger, which will assist in preventing falls, fractures, and other injuries and illnesses.”

Well-rounded wellness

People all over the world practice tai chi, an ancient Chinese martial art. “Its greatest benefit would be to strengthen the body and help with balance,” says Ben, who has practiced tai chi for 40 years. “But it’s not overnight. You have to practice consistently to achieve results.” That’s why he offers tai chi classes three times a week in Seabrook’s activities room. 

Combined with breathing and meditation, the movements of tai chi help students clear their minds of any stresses or worries.  

Similar to tai chi, yoga focuses on breathing, meditation, stretching, and strength. Lou Cutler, who lives at Seabrook and leads chair yoga, says his classes are fun, healthy, and growing. When he first offered to teach the class, he says he hoped for eight to ten students. “We’re averaging about 22 per class,” he says proudly. 

That’s because his students are seeing results. “People in walkers are now leaving their walkers at the door and walking into class to participate. People in wheelchairs are standing up during class,” he says. “They’re feeling good and getting something out of it.” 

For Lou, “It’s very gratifying,” he says.

Lou worked in the pharmacy industry and studied the human body to create orthopedics and braces. He and his wife moved to Seabrook from an active 55-plus community in Toms River. 

“We love living here. It’s been an adventure,” he says.

They stay fit by following an exercise show on TV each morning, walking daily around the campus, taking water aerobics in the aquatics center and strength training in the on-site fitness center, in addition to yoga. 

“The best way to keep healthy is to keep moving,” Lou says.

Balance basics

Seabrook priority list member Jim McCorkel adds qigong to the low-impact exercise calendar. He teaches the 3,000-year-old exercise, which is similar to yoga in that it involves breathing, gentle movements, and, in Jim’s teaching style, self-applied massage. 

“The best benefit of qigong for our population is that it reduces stress. You feel more energized and relaxed,” he says. “In addition to stress reduction, it offers a wonderful opportunity to become more aware of balance and to increase balance.”

Welch says maintaining balance is vital as we age—starting at age 30.

“Our balance begins to decrease in our 30s, believe it or not,” Welch says. “Focusing on balance exercises every day can prevent our balance from worsening as we age. Poor balance is the number one reason for falls, and it is extremely important that we make this a priority. Tai chi, qigong, and yoga all focus on not only physical health but mental health as well. These classes also focus on breathing, stretching, and posture, which are all benefits to improving balance.” 

Aside from physical and mental health, Jim says participants gain social balance, too. “The sharing of friendship is really remarkable. It’s a social activity as well as a form of wellness exercise,” he says.

Jim says any form of low-impact exercise, like yoga, tai chi, or qigong, benefits the body and mind. 

“The fact that there’s both intro and advanced tai chi and yoga gives people a choice. They are all wonderful things to do at any age to enhance your well-being. I am blown away by the support that independent living residents at Seabook are offered to enhance their wellness,” says Jim, who plans to move to Seabrook in the future.

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