Monday Medical: Stay fit to ease aging

Susan Cunningham/For Steamboat Today
Monday Medical

If you go

What: Senior Fitness Day

Where: East and West community rooms, Steamboat Springs Community Center, 1605 Lincoln Ave.

When: 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug.25

Staying fit is important to our health and well-being, especially as we age.

Scientists have found that one of the best predictors of life expectancy for seniors is how mobile they are.

“Studies show the number one thing to keep us aging well is to keep active,” said Kim Miles, clinical supervisor at SportsMed, who also is a physical therapist and certified exercise expert for aging adults.

“(Keeping active helps) with fall prevention, reduces loss of muscle mass, improves your ability to live independently, overall health and well-being and slows the natural aging process that happens with our bodies. We want people to be as active as possible within their abilities.”

Seniors in Routt County will have a chance to gauge their fitness during this year’s Senior Fitness Day, a free event sponsored by Yampa Valley Medical Center. The event features four stations with simple fitness tests that can help identify areas to improve to maintain a long, active lifestyle. Doing all of the tests should take 15 to 20 minutes.

This year, the event will be held during the week at the Steamboat Springs Community Center in an effort to reach more seniors.

“We’ve made it more accessible,” Miles said. “There’s a large group of seniors that have lunch that day at the Community Center and then can come over. We thought we’d hit a broader ability level that way.”

Losing muscle mass is a natural result of aging, but seniors have to be wary of losing too much. Maintaining lower body strength is especially important, as poor strength can contribute to falls and other injuries.

“There’s a certain amount of muscle strength needed to do your normal daily activities, as well as participate in recreational activities,” Miles said.

At the fitness day, seniors can check their upper- and lower-body strength through tests involving arm curls and sitting and standing up from a chair. Results show seniors how their muscle mass compares to that of others their age.

There are two tests for balance: In the static test, participants try to stand still with their legs close and arms crossed; in the dynamic test, participants step in a grid pattern to check their movement in all directions. Though the tests might sound simple, participants are often surprised at how challenging they can be.

The test for posture, in which seniors stand straight against a wall, helps screen for compression fractures of the spine and other possible spinal issues.

All seniors are invited to attend.

“If you’re as young as in your 60s but are struggling with some things and wondering, ‘Is there an area I need to pay more attention to,’ it may be good to attend,” Miles said.

Exercises can be modified or skipped as appropriate. Northwest Colorado Health, formerly Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, also will have a table at the event with health services information.

Participants can expect to leave with a recommendation for next steps, whether that’s to start a few exercises at home, see a doctor or physical therapist for further evaluation or simply to keep doing what they’re already doing.

Regardless of the result, participants in the past have been pleased with the event.

“We’ve gotten all positive feedback from people,” Miles said.

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

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