Each Friday morning at the YMCA at Gothenburg Health, participants ranging in age from 55 to 102 meet to strengthen their bodies and minds.
Instructor Erica Schwartz leads them through exercises to increase mobility, strengthen muscles and improve their heart health in the Senior Strength Class.
Erica has been teaching the class for a year now and enjoys helping seniors improve their health and well-being.
“I got started at the Y because I missed sharing and helping people hit their fitness goals,” Erica said. “I considered teaching a Zumba class but remembered how much I loved teaching and helping seniors work out. There’s always so much to learn from seniors and their life experiences, so it’s a win-win for both of us.”
Erica has a degree in nutrition with a minor in exercise science. Before joining the Y staff in Gothenburg, she worked as a personal trainer in Omaha at Prairie Life Fitness. She also works at WIC as a nutritionist in Lexington. She had taught a senior class and a body sculpting class in college.
The YMCA Senior Strength Class at the Gothenburg YMCA meets from 10:15-11 a.m. each Friday. Many participants are transported from Stone Hearth Estates.
The oldest participant is Alicia, who is 102 and partially blind.
“Much to my surprise, she kept up better than you’d think for a woman who can’t fully see,” Erica said. “She didn’t skip an exercise, we just modified it to what she could do.”
Another participant, Lyn, who has been attending the class since February, said she noticed her shoulder pain had diminished.
“She was so thrilled because now she can move her arm above her head without pain,” Erica said. “Another member, Karen, has heart issues, but that doesn’t stop her from coming and participating. I have other members with bad knees and they see improvements in their mobility and pain.”
Erica said strength training is one of the best ways to prevent fractures, broken bones, and disease, especially at an older age.
“We lose bone mass as we age, and the best way to protect it is by exercising specifically with resistance such as with weights or body weight along with a diet rich in protein and meats. Some other benefits of resistance training include better cardiovascular health, increased energy levels, lower abdominal fat, improved mood (my favorite), better flexibility and mobility, and enhanced brain health. The benefits just never end.”
Newcomers are welcome to the class at any time. YMCA group exercise classes are included in membership fees. For a schedule of group exercise classes at YMCAs in Holdrege, Lexington and Gothenburg, visit www.ymcaoftheprairie.org/schedules