Healthy Eatonville Senior Fitness Program is a Success

Black seniors exercising outdoorsLast fall, the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) awarded a grant to Healthy Eatonville Place to provide seniors in the Eatonville community with a pilot program to improve their overall fitness and potentially reduce health complications through participation in age appropriate exercises. These activities were developed by a certified exercise physiologist and implemented by a certified exercise instructor who had experience working with older adults. The goal was to determine the most effective ways to increase physical activity among Eatonville seniors. The program consisted of a one-hour exercise class three days per week for a 16-week period. The classes utilized practical equipment and pedometers to facilitate and measure increased physical activity among participants.

Much was learned during the pilot including potential community conflicts that impacted attendance. Overall, 18 older adults took part regularly. The average age was 66.7 years. Individuals younger than 65 were welcomed if they had health problems that could potentially limit their ability to participate in more vigorous exercise programs. The youngest individual was 50 years old and the oldest was 95. Forty one percent had diabetes, 18% had pre-diabetes and approximately 40% reported a history of hypertension taking medications. Overall weight loss was not too significant; however, two participants lost 5% of their body weight and another individual lost 2% of her body weight. The most substantial changes occurred in exercise capacity noting improvement in bicep curls, chair raises and flexibility. Walk fitness improved from an average of 939.4 feet walked in six minutes initially to 1162.6 feet post-class. One individual was only able to walk 300 feet (extremely limited mobility), but improved to 600 feet by the end of the program.

All individuals who completed the program gave it a 100% satisfaction rating. Another question asked them to rate their health on a 0-100 scale. The pre-program average was 76.4 and the post-program average was 80.5. As important as the physical improvements were, the class increased sociability which is important in this age group. Many individuals continued to come “even when they did not feel like it” for the interaction with others and there was concern when someone missed a class. They felt connected with their instructor and there was a level of trust built during the 16 weeks. Participants encouraged each other and celebrated others’ successes.

Many testimonials were provided by participants including…

“I have really enjoyed this exercise class. Although physical challenges hindered my desired level of participation, the time I spent in the class increased my activity to a noticeable improvement. I was able to lift my foot up to tie my shoes. Our teacher was encouraging, motivational and positive. I was blessed in and by this class.”

“As a 63 year-old grandmother who is helping with the care of my grandchildren and wanting to be an example to them by staying healthy, I found the exercises class to be beneficial in helping me strengthen muscles and learn about precautions of falls. No matter what limitations some of us had, we still benefited from these exercises. Hopefully we can continue with these classes.”