Care Community Blog: Move It or Lose It

Kay visits an exercise class for later life

Retired Care Pro Kay visits an exercise class for later life as part of her blog series to discover the huge range of possible activities for older people in York

Move it or Lose it!

The clue is in the title. This is a national company dedicated to encouraging older people to stay fit and active in order to maintain their independence. They run fitness classes all over the country, in church halls, care homes and even in doctors surgeries. On their website I found 15 different classes available within five miles of York city centre. Whether you live in the city centre or in one of the outlying suburbs and villages, you will probably find a class near to you or one of your HomeInstead clients.  Visit their website for details.

I arranged to visit Catherine Adamson’s group at Heworth Without Community Centre. The group meets on Thursdays at 1.30pm. The venue has a free car park and a ramp to ensure easy access to the building. Sessions cost £6.00 payable monthly in advance.

It was a freezing cold day, but Catherine’s class were not put off by the weather. As they arrived and settled themselves on the chairs set out around the room they discussed their recent health issues and anything else relevant to their participation in the class.  This was not just ‘small talk’. Understanding individual needs is vital in order to tailor exercises to each person. Move it or Lose it instructors promote FABS – flexibility, aerobic, balance and strength – as recommended by NHS guidelines for people over 60. Everything they do is based on good science and the experience of physiotherapists and doctors.

Before we started exercising Catherine explained that all the movements could be done seated or standing. Safety was extremely important, and anyone with balance issues could either stand with the back of the chair for support or remain seated. We were encouraged to exercise within our own abilities and not to push ourselves further than our bodies wanted to go.

We started with a warm-up to get our muscles and our brains engaged – heel taps, toe taps, shoulder rolls and the all-important cross-lateral moves that challenge our brains and actually stimulate new brain cells to grow. For example, we would raise our right arm and our left knee, or vice versa. Cross-lateral movement improves balance and makes falls less likely.

Warm up completed we started exercising different muscle groups – outer thighs, inner thighs, arms, hands and shoulders. Catherine demonstrated the moves first and explained the reasoning behind each one. We did a lot of ‘ski squats’ to strengthen the big thigh muscles because these are the ones that we use for getting out of a chair and off the toilet. The ability to do these things can be the difference between living independently and needing care, so it is well worth doing a few gentle squats to keep those muscles healthy.

There was no ‘jumping around and waving your arms’ involved. Every movement was to be carried out slowly and precisely, so that specific muscles were stimulated. It looked easy but my goodness it was effective! Each set of exercises was carried out for the duration of a musical track, and then we moved on to a different muscle group. I loved the music choices. Queen, Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald; what a great mix!

The last set of exercises were for our pelvic floor. Anyone passing by would have thought that we were just sitting listening to music, but internally we were all working hard. Pelvic floor exercises can reduce or prevent urinary incontinence and should be done daily by men and women. A few minutes of spare time is all that we need. We could even do them on the bus or in a queue at the supermarket. I discovered that I can’t do them without raising my eyebrows so it’s probably best for me to do them in private!

The hour went very quickly and after a cool-down and a few stretches we wrapped up to brave the cold again. I had chance to chat to Catherine about the group. She explained that they had only been running in Heworth since September and the group was still quite small. Although all the participants I saw today were women, the sessions are designed for everyone, and she would really like to see more men engaging with exercise.

If you have Home Instead clients or older family members living in Heworth, I can thoroughly recommend this group as a way to improve fitness and meet new people. You can also join sessions on Zoom, or work through the exercises on your own with one of their DVDs. Go to the Move it or Lose it website for details, and to find alternative classes in other areas of York.

For more information about the importance of activity and exercise to age well, visit our help and support guide.