The music may be tamer and the movements more stylized, but senior citizens participating in the aerobics class at Pleasant Grove Senior Citizen Center are finding out that the benefits are the same.
"We're looking forward to it being one of our best programs this fall," said Ruth Hassenfritz, center director. "It's not too professional, not done by a movie star with a big developed body, so we can relate to it better. For some of our seniors, this is the only exposure they get to exercise."Every weekday morning at 10:30, a small group gathers in the center's main room to follow a videotape through a warm-up and stretching routine, followed by a short aerobic workout. The entire sequence takes about 25 minutes.
The Pleasant Grove center is one of 42 senior citizen facilities across the United States using a pilot video aerobics program developed by the Brigham Young University Gerontology Resource Center.
The program was developed under the direction of Carole Jewkes, project administrator, who saw a need in nursing homes and senior centers for some form of organized exercise geared to the physical abilities of senior citizens.
"Many centers and nursing homes want to start exercise programs but have a hard time finding someone to lead their programs," said Jewkes. "With our program all they have to do is plug in the video, and any one can follow along."
Improved circulation, increased energy and enhanced mental performance and self-esteem are only some of the benefits participants in the aerobic program may gain.
"It keeps me active," said Moneita Hair, 81. "Otherwise, I would be sitting and doing nothing." Hair has been faithfully participating in the aerobic program since the center acquired it last May.
In addition, exercise has been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins, chemicals produced by the body that provide some pain relief and act as mood elevators.
The program features simple exercises that can be performed while standing and holding onto a chair or while sitting. Musical numbers used include a variety of old favorites - "The Washington Post March," "Summertime" and "Tiny Bubbles," - designed to bring back memories of youth. Jewkes said it is not uncommon for members of a class to sing along. In fact, they are encouraged to do so.
Garth Fisher, professor of physical education in the Human Performance Center at BYU and Phyllis Jacobson, chairman of the dance department at BYU, helped develop the program.