Exercise your way to better health

May 25 is National Senior Health and Fitness Day! Organizations around the nation are promoting “Exercise your way to a Better Day.”

Can exercise really help one have a better day? Think of a time you were feeling down, no energy, over stressed or maybe even bored. Getting out for a walk, run or even a simple stroll around the house a couple of times can make you feel better. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce perception of pain. This means these endorphins released from movement trigger a positive feeling in the body, which will make you feel better.

Seniors benefit in numerous ways from physical activity. These benefits include: a reduced fall risk; increased ability to live independently, maintain strength and healthy joints/muscles; helping reduce/control blood pressure and strengthening the heart; a reduced the risk of colon cancer, diabetes and arthritis joint swelling; eased symptoms of stress/anxiety; and a community and companionship when done in groups. These are just some of the benefits from being active.

There are multiple ways to get active with participating organizations or making your own fun to celebrate National Senior Health and Fitness Day. Many activities can be modified to fit any limitation. Here are some ideas to help you get moving:

• Go to the park — Parks and recreational departments provide a perfect opportunity for seniors to get out in nature. There are many amazing walking parks and trails right here in Jefferson City, such as the Katy Trail; Runge Nature Center; the Greenway; or McKay, Riverside, Memorial or Binder Lake parks.

• Attend a fitness class or gym — What more appropriate way to spend National Senior Health and Fitness Day than by attending a fitness class or a gym with other seniors? Having an instructor to help demonstrate proper technique to prevent injury will make you more comfortable with going. Doing this with a large group of people heightens motivation and energy.

• Work in the garden — Gardening is a leisurely hobby promoting both health and fitness. Plant a garden bed or pot filled with fresh produce/herbs. Take gardening a step further with personal crop or purchased from the grocer, and cook a meal with fresh produce filled with extensive nutrients to nourish the body. This will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

• Dance — Groove and dance to the music. Whether signed up for a Zumba class or in the comfort of your own kitchen, there are endless possibilities when it comes to dancing as it can be done just about anywhere. Get a beat, grab a friend and dance your night away.

• Schedule a health screening — Along with being active, be proactive with health. Scheduling a health screening keeps seniors in the know of their own personal health and offers a chance to take preventative measures or actions, which may also be dependent on the physical results and discussions held with a health care professional.

National Senior Health and Fitness Day is just one week away! The Sam B. Cook Healthplex Fitness Center is celebrating with an open house from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. May 25. We provide a safe, friendly environment for all who come. Our walking track, cardio area, strengthening machines/free weights and group fitness classes are uniquely designed to fit those with different areas of experience. We take pride in providing you with professional staff that will aid in helping you exercise your way to a better day and better health.

Kay Benward is an exercise specialist and supervisor at the Sam B. Cook Healthplex Fitness Center. She has been with Capital Region Medical Center for 30 years and inspired many people to lead healthy lives through exercise. She continues to teach classes and enjoys training the mature adult for balance, posture and functional strength, as well as educating her clients, staff and community on exercise as medicine.