Certified fitness specialist and trainer Anastasia Lynn has heeded the call to help seniors since she was 11. That was when her mother told her to go next door and help a disabled neighbor up the steps. The neighbor gave her candy.
“I’ve been hooked ever since,” admitted Lynn.
Over the years, she has worked in assisted living, gotten certified in Silver & Fit exercise classes for older adults and taught chair aerobics. But she never came across the ongoing class she thought seniors needed most — one that challenged them to build and maintain balance, warding off crippling and even fatal falls.
That’s why Lynn created her “Stable Seniors” program.
Despite being around seniors frequently, the experience of seeing some lose their balance and fall never sat well with her.
“They would fall in front of me and not come back,” she recalled, “people that I loved and cared about.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three adults 65 or older falls each year. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries, and death rates have risen sharply over the past decade. Falls are also the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in that age group and can lead to conditions that infringe on seniors’ independence.
Unlike many seminars that give older adults an overview but not much time to absorb the teaching, Lynn’s approach offers a place to practice and be empowered, three times a week. The class strengthens everything from the vestibular system and inner ear balance to the body’s proprioceptors, sensory receptors that allow one to walk up the steps without looking down or scratch one’s head without looking in the mirror.
The seed of the class began in Lynn’s private training work, when clients came to her with issues such as vertigo. She went to therapy with them, learned their program and incorporated it into their fitness routine.
One of Lynn’s students, 60-year-old Janet Mano, has Parkinson’s disease. She broke her ankle and spent two months in a wheelchair in January. But after three weeks of taking the class and doing a month of aquatic training, her strength began to come back.
“It means I can walk around without using something to lean on, like my cane or a walker,” she said.
Roger LeBel, 87, said, jokingly, that the class helps him “chase women by myself all the time!” After doing it for about three months, he decided it was “the most important thing I do.”
According to Lynn, it takes only two weeks for many students to notice a positive difference. The worst-case scenario might be under six months. And seniors gain confidence along the way.
“I’ve had people not need to use their cane anymore, not need to use their walker,” she said. And, she said, being able to put those aids aside can make the difference in daily activities so often taken for granted – such as using the restroom without help.
“You don’t have to lose your balance as you age,” Lynn stressed, recalling a client she started training when he was 77. She had him sitting on the slippery “balancing disc,” a Waterloo even for some students in their 40s. At age 90, she noted, her client now stands on the balancing disc on one foot.
Muscular strength is a key to that balance. Lynn said people can develop it with exercise as simple as sitting in a chair and standing up, then repeating, working up to eight times, twice a day.
“I tell people, if they don’t do any other exercise for the rest of their lives, make sure they do that one,” she said. In fact, she added, people start losing their sense of balance as early as age 40, so it’s important to start strengthening the building blocks of balance earlier rather than later.
More information about Lynn’s class schedule, 30-minute DVD and workout package are available at www.stableseniors.com. For the class schedule, click on “Press,” then “Class schedule.”