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Forever Fit Seniors

By:  Josetta Shropshire

Baby Boomers are redefining what it means to be Senior Citizens in America.  Baby Boomers span 18 years. They are individuals born after World War II – between 1946 and 1955, those who came of age during the Vietnam War era, and the generation born between 1956 and 1964.  This huge group of individuals at one time numbered about 75,000,000 citizens and now makes up about 20% of the U.S. population. Boomers have been productive contributing members of society for many years, and now they are making up the increasing numbers of senior citizens.  In fact:  Boomers are living longer than any generation before them.

One of the areas where long living seniors are making the greatest strides is in the area of fitness. Senior Citizens including Baby Boomers stay active by engaging in physical fitness.  Exercise is the key to staying strong, energetic, and healthy as you get older. Focusing on exercise is the single best thing you can do for your health.  No matter your age or your current physical condition, you can benefit from exercise.  “The body is amazing in what it can do.  Some people have come into the fitness game late, but they have changed their lifestyle and added 20 years to their life.  There are a lot of people doing it, in their 70’s running marathons. ” Fitness trainer Ringo Maxx comments, “Society can be cruel to a senior person. Decide to invest into your body, invest in your health. Make an investment in yourself.  Dig deep. Read about better eating habits.  Get a trainer, go to the gym. Get a game plan.  This is the investment you have to make.”

Whether you are generally healthy or are managing an illness, there are plenty of ways to get more active, improve confidence, and boost your fitness.  Milton Calvin is active and driving at 93 and he makes sure he exercises.  “I get my exercise in the summer through gardening and doing the lawns and all that.  I do all my exercise outside, unless I’m cooped up with bad weather.  In the wintertime when it’s bad I do exercises in the house.”   There is great importance to staying physically fit. Mr. Milton a nonagenarian who has eclipsed the Baby boomer generation and says, “With me, keeping active keeps me going.”  He goes on to say, “If I would just sit down I would be dead by now.”  As we grow older, an active lifestyle is more important than ever.   

I recently talked with one of Atlanta’s premiere physical trainers, Ringo Johnson owner of RinGo MaXX Fitness (contact info below).   He’s certified, and has been teaching and helping people get physically fit for about 30 years. During this time, he’s seen fitness “go to another level.” He says, “It’s all about health.  Health has to be a priority. People are more health conscious. Even though the obesity level is still on the rise, people have more options and alternatives available.  There’s really no excuse.” Research shows that sedentary lifestyles are unhealthy for the elderly.  Inactivity often causes seniors to lose the ability to do things on their own and can lead to more hospital, and doctor visits, and the increased use of medicines for many illnesses.  “Just because you are 60 you shouldn’t have high cholesterol, just because you are 60 you shouldn’t have high blood pressure.”   

People of all ages come to the Ringo Maxx fitness classes offered.  One 67 year old class participant says:  he feels like a workout really increases his blood flow, and increases his stamina.  He believes, “It stretches out the time before you require some assistance in mobility, traveling, and driving because at some point I have to give up driving – but it won’t be soon.”  Waymon Sims is 76 years old and regularly attends the Ring Maxx fitness class for “youth”.  He works out multiple times each week to stay in his words “young and vibrant.”  Sims states:  “I’m not a couch potato anymore.  I used to be a couch potato.  I weighed 260 pounds when I started working out with Ringo and now I’m 205.”  Octogenarian Robbie Bronner agrees.  She says, “God wants us to get up and do something with these bodies.  You can’t just sit down.  You’ve got to exercise.  You got to walk, you got to run.  That’s why he put all these joints in the body, you’ve got to move them.” 

Maxx has people in his weekly classes of all ages, from 16 up to the upper 70’s.  To his surprise, some of the people in their 70’s are outdoing people in their 20’s.  “They focus harder because they understand that fitness is important.”  Some trainers create exercises according to specific age groups.  Ringo has a different philosophy.  He doesn’t train according to age.  He pushes you past your age and helps you think younger.  “If you come here everybody is on the same page. No matter what your age is you are here to push to get to another level.  We recognize age, but we don’t focus on it.  It’s the mindset.  If you can get them (senior citizens) to believe they can do better they will do better.  They have to push through the resistance.  It’s the resistance that builds the body.  I always challenge the body.” 

A sobering fact is seniors can’t afford NOT to get moving and stay active.  Regular physical activity lowers the risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity.  Regular exercise, by building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass.  Physical exercise actually improves balance, by reducing the risk of falling.  Reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t always require strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. It’s about adding more movement and activity to life, even in small ways.  Going for walks is a helpful way to increase fitness and mobility.  You’re never too old to exercise!  If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while, start with light walking and other gentle activities.  Ms. Robbie Bronner, age 85 is the matriarch of the Bronner Brothers family.  She walks miles at a time several days a week and enthusiastically professes,  “God has given us our bodies, and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  So we have to work and take care of the body.  We have to exercise, we have to put the proper foods into the body, we have to drink plenty of water.  We have to keep our minds and mental state of mind uplifted.”  

Exercise and strength training helps you look and feel younger and stay active longer.  Maxx adds, “You can reach out on Youtube, TV, social media.  You can reach out for 5 minutes, 10 minutes up to an hour exercising from your own home or there are several gyms available.”  According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) you need two  hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity and at least 3 hours of resistance training exercises every week.  These exercises should work all major muscle groups including:  legs, hips, back, core, chest, shoulders and arms.

He goes on to point out some people who don’t see results right away get frustrated.  Maxx advises, “If you’re going to start – be consistent.  Change your eating habits. Be real with yourself, talk to yourself and put the cookies and cake down.  You may not feel like it, but force yourself to exercise – which is called discipline.  This discipline will give you a passion. Once you get the passion, then you are on a different level.  Start with cardio, change your eating, develop a passion, get established, and then you will see results.”   

Regular exercise can help boost energy, maintain a seniors’ independence, and manage symptoms of illness or pain. Senior exercise and fitness tips can even reverse some of the symptoms of aging.  And not only is exercise good for your body—it’s also good for your mind, mood, and memory.  If you’ve never exercised before, you may not be sure where to begin.  Maxx believes “When you come in for the first time at 50 or 60 years old, don’t think about your age, think about what I can do to improve my body – improve my health.”  He suggests that seniors don’t look for the minimum and don’t look for the modified versions.  Instead to look for how can I better myself. 

Chair-bound people face special challenges but can lift light weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics to increase range of motion, improve muscle tone, and promote cardiovascular health.  Ringo points to people in Special Olympics for example as folks who are getting out there, doing what they have to do to stay healthy.  “It’s never too late.  As long as you have a good heartbeat, you can work out”. Whether you are generally healthy or are managing an illness—even if you’re housebound—there are many easy ways to get your body moving and improve your health.  Ringo believes, “If you can move your body, there’s always a chance. Exercise. Max yourself out for that particular day and move on.”

RingoMaxx Fitness:  ringomaxx42@gmail.com  (678) 313-3292  www.ringomaxx.com 

Fitness classes:  Monday, Thursday & Saturday @ 6 p.m. 

Location is The Ark of Salvation,  355 Georgia Avenue,  Atlanta, GA  30312

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