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Low Impact Physical Activity

By Tom Lowrey, Senior Services Education Assistant

Are you looking for fun, joy or a sense of fulfillment? If you walk into the Greendale Senior Center at about 10 o’clock on a Monday or Wednesday morning, you’ll see a bunch of smiling people exiting the gym. They’ve just come out of Silvana Spindler’s Low Impact Physical Activity (LIPA) class, and are ready to take on the world!

“Low impact” means one foot on the ground, and no jumping. “It has been proven that low impact activity is the best way to increase your bone density,” says Silvana, who has a master’s degree in physical education from Central Michigan University, and has always had a special interest in senior health and fitness. In addition to her classes at the Greendale Center, she also teaches fitness classes at CMU and Dow Chemical. Her exercise program is designed to improve overall fitness, but there is a special emphasis on maintaining or improving bone density in order to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which can leave bones weak and brittle.

Health experts agree: “Participation in low or moderate levels of physical activity may protect against the development of osteoarthritis,” according to Harold Kohl III and Tinker Murray in their book, Foundations of Physical Activity and Public Health, “whereas participation in moderate-intensity, low-impact physical activity has been shown to decrease pain and increase function, quality of life, and mental health in people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia… Existing studies show fairly consistently that participation in regular physical activity and exercise can reduce the risk of hip fractures anywhere from 36 to 68%.”

“My goal,” says Silvana, “is to help people stay in good shape, have good health, and keep a good sense of humor.” Her class is not only low-impact… it is also low-pressure. “I don’t assign homework,” she says, “but since we only meet twice a week, I do encourage my students to do some of the exercises at home.”

Silvana’s 45-minute classes begin with a little warm-up, and then about 15 minutes of steps. However, unlike many typical aerobics classes, you won’t always see her participants all doing the same thing. “As we get older, we often have something going on in our bodies… Today it’s a shoulder, tomorrow a knee. So I try to adjust the exercises and modify them for those who need it.” So Silvana will move from student to student, giving lots of individual attention so that each participant gets maximum benefit from the class.

“We always do something for upper body, too. We work on our abs and our core to keep them in good shape, because if those are strong, your back can get some relief.” Participants also do weight-bearing exercises and use elastic bands to increase strength. The last few minutes of the class are devoted to stretching the big muscles to improve flexibility.

Interested in getting in shape and having some fun at the same time? Come join Silvana and friends at the Greendale Center, located at the West Midland Family Center, 4011 W. Isabella Road, about halfway between Midland and Mt. Pleasant. Classes are Mondays and Wednesdays, beginning at 9:00 am, and are only $2 a session. Sign up at the Greendale Center or call 832-8683.