Monday Medical: Fit for life

Susan Cunningham/For the Steamboat Todaym

Senior Screening for Fitness

What: Free drop in fitness screening for seniors 60 and older

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Center conferences rooms

When: 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, June 13

Information: For best results, avoid strenuous physical activity for one to two days before the assessment, avoid alcohol use for 24 hours before testing, eat a light meal one hour before testing and wear clothing and shoes appropriate for participating in physical activity. For more information, call Kim at 970-875-2785.

Physical fitness is vital to aging well. And on June 13, Routt County seniors have a chance to see how fit they are.

At the Senior Screening for Fitness, anyone 60 years or older will be able to test their physical fitness and see how they compare to others their age. The free event is sponsored by Yampa Valley Medical Center.

“We’re trying to encourage people to stay active and keep moving,” said Kim Miles, a physical therapist at YVMC who is a certified exercise expert for aging adults.

Exercise has incredible benefits for health and well-being: It strengthens cardiovascular and respiratory health, improves balance, decreases depression, slows the loss of muscle mass and more.

“Exercise, in a way, actually slows down aging,” said Susan Ring, director of rehab services, physical therapist and certified exercise expert for aging adults. “It keeps you more agile. You’re less likely to fall. It helps your brain: People who exercise have better cognitive ability.”

The screening day offers a variety of tests to measure strength, flexibility and balance to give an overall picture of someone’s fitness.

One test is the chair stand test, which involves getting up and down from a chair in a short period of time. Results from this test show functional lower extremity strength and agility and give a good indication of how someone handles stairs and curbs in real life. Difficulty with this test can point to a higher risk for a fall.

Another test — the arm curl test — measures strength needed for everyday activities like bringing in groceries or getting plates down from the cupboard.

During the screening, seniors will learn the level of fitness they meet in various categories: “Fit” is the highest level, followed by “Fun,” then “Functional” and finally “Frail.” The goal, Miles said, is to help people stay “Fit” and “Fun.”

People with high levels of fitness may be interested to see how they measure up to others their age and to understand what they need to do to maintain that fitness. With Routt County’s active lifestyle and ranching heritage, Miles and Ring expect that many seniors will perform well on the tests.

“Routt County does not have an easy lifestyle,” Ring said. Shoveling snow is strenuous, and even a walk around the neighborhood can mean climbing hills. “If you’re outside at all, you’re probably working harder than people in many parts of the country.”

But for seniors who may be struggling with fitness, the screening can be a critical first step to making progress.

“We want to encourage everyone to attend,” Miles said. “(Especially) people who are maybe feeling a little homebound because of their physical condition. We can get them a clear picture of what their health is right now and what they can do to make a difference.”

Depending on someone’s fitness level, exercises or next steps will be recommended at the screening.

“A lot of these things can be corrected fairly easily with exercise,” Ring said. “And if you change the lifestyle early, it can make a significant difference.”

Being active is important, but it doesn’t have to be hard. It can include gardening, cleaning the house and going on brisk walks.

“You don’t have to have a gym membership,” Miles said. “You can get fit at your home.”

The key, Ring said, is to “just get up and move.” Her recommended exercise right now? Dancing the Tango.

Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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