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Geri-actives keep up and keep going

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The golden years are fitter than ever before. Folks are living longer and enjoying activities that they engaged in in their 40s and 50s. Geri-active is in! Geri-actives are pushing their much younger counterparts and family members to keep up and keep going. They are inspirational role models who are not going unnoticed.

Nationwide, as well as at Bill Heddles Recreation Center (BHRC), geri-actives are learning the importance of maintaining strength, flexibility and balance. Those components affect their everyday lives and routines, not to mention help to avoid unwanted injuries.

At BHRC, geri-actives have many choices of activities and programs. On land, choices include Healthy Body Strong Bones, Silver Sneakers Classic, Fit 'n Focus, Forever Fit and Senior Circuit. Their motto is "Challenge Your Limits," and do they! Many have incorporated exercise into their weekly plan, using the phrase "Be stronger than your excuses" to stay on track. Geri-actives take advantage of the cardio room, weight rooms and additional class offerings such as pilates, body bar, cycle and abs, and dance fit.

Their curiosity and need for fitness knowledge is enhanced by cardio/weight room orientations, fitness consultations, TRX training and everyday living tips from caring, certified trainers at BHRC.

"The recreation center has the best instructors, all with different styles," said Kristy Colborn, a Senior Circuit participant who says the 9 a.m. classes get her up and going.

Jo Cunningham, 88, has been a BHRC regular for 17 years. "There's a good variety of classes, plus exercising in the water and relaxing in the hot tub," she said. "The Silver Sneakers class is great and so much fun. The stretch class has sure helped me a lot. We're so fortunate to have a wonderful facility in our small town."

Instructor Billie Ruble once weighed 455 pounds and was confined to a wheelchair. In 2000 she started pool exercises five days a week. "It was the only place I could move and not be in pain," Billie said. "I lost weight steadily until I lost enough weight to have gastric bypass surgery in 2005. I continued to get stronger and healthier and was able to take more classes." She had both knees replaced in 2014, and again hit the pool, this time for rehabilitation in the warm water.

She has lost a total of 257 pounds and is now proud to be teaching water aerobics and a senior chair class. "I doubt that I would be here if not for this wonderful rec center," she said.

The aquatics area usage has exploded due to the additional space and 94° water temperature. A variety of classes challenge all levels of fitness. Many geri-actives swim laps, some as early as 5:30 a.m. Those wanting resistance training or who are coming out of surgeries use the lazy river as another tool for working out. Both land and aqua alike take advantage of the sauna and hot tub to relax after their day at the gym.

Beulah Garner loves to de-stress in the therapy pool. "I enjoy the water aerobics classes, where I've found new friends and much laughter. And my body feels so much better when I get home from a good workout."

Marsha Thomas agrees the rec center is a wonderful place for exercise, fun and fellowship. In October 2013, she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. By the following spring, she was unable to get enough oxygen to get to the rec center, let alone exercise. After several weeks of extensive testing she was placed on the lung transplant list at the University of Colorado.

"I passed all the tests with flying colors," she said. "I know the exercise classes I had been attending at the rec center definitely helped me."

On April 10, 2014, she received two new lungs. After spending three months in Denver with her sister as her caregiver, she was able to return to her Orchard City home. In the summer of 2014 she started rehab at Delta County Memorial Hospital. When she "graduated" from hospital rehab she returned to the rec center, where she participates in Silver Sneakers classes. "Gary and Gina are not only excellent instructors, but are also lots of fun. The class remembered me with cards and prayers during my recovery. They're wonderful exercise partners as well as friends." Marsha calls herself a "walking miracle" who is thoroughly enjoying life.

Geri-actives have found other fun and exciting ways to exercise outside BHRC. The fastest growing sport in America is pickleball. BHRC has three outdoor courts, plus three in the gym when the weather is not cooperating. Folks love the many trails around Confluence Park, and this spring the parks department is adding fitness equipment around the lake so folks can work all their major muscle groups along with their walk or run. Golfing, biking, skiing, hiking and snowshoeing are just a few of the activities geri-actives continue to enjoy thanks to their newfound fitness.

Young and old alike are striving for healthier lifestyles, and it starts with exercise. Remember the motto: Challenge your limits. Let the "golden" years be just that!

Photo by Pat Sunderland After an incredible weight loss of 257 pounds, Billie Ruble is proud to be teaching water aerobics and a senior chair class at Bill Heddles Recreation Center. “There are so many classes both in the water and on land for people of all levels to take,” she said. “There really is something for everyone to do.”
Photo by Pat Sunderland The instructors at Bill Heddles Recreation Center are committed to helping seniors maintain or attain a healthy lifestyle.
Photo by Pat Sunderland Doris Archer, age 91, can lay claim to being the oldest participant in the senior chair class. Her daughter Susan considers herself one of the class “pioneers.”
Photo by Pat Sunderland Bob and Ann Dahlberg (left), ages 88 and 86, drive from Crawford twice a week for the chair class taught by Billie Ruble.
Photo by Pat Sunderland Senior Circuit participants move from one machine to another, alternating upper and lower exercises to enhance strength and flexibility.
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