Charlotte Rawlinson leads a Get Up & Go class at the Hope rec centre Dec. 4. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

New exercise class in Hope fills a need for those who can’t attend other seniors fitness classes

Get Up & Go is gentle exercise with a goal of increasing quality of life and social connections

A new class at the Hope rec centre has big goals, to get seniors who haven’t previously been able or willing to come in and move their bodies.

Get Up & Go, held on Tuesdays from 10 to 11 a.m., is an entry level class for people who aren’t exercising regularly or don’t feel they are strong enough or balanced enough to go to typical exercise classes. And so far the class has been well attended, with 10 to 15 students dropping in each week.

“It’s designed around fall prevention, which is anybody that’s starting to get a little bit more fragile or a little bit weaker. So it’s a very broad category,” said Rachel Tutte, staff physiotherapist at the Fraser Canyon Hospital.

Get Up & Go is for people who haven’t been able to attend exercise classes like the twice-weekly class offered by the Canyon Golden Age Club or aquafit at the rec centre. Maybe they feel they aren’t strong enough, they don’t have the balance, perhaps they use a cane or walker or are recuperating from a medical condition.

“And they might not even have had specific health issues before, they just might feel like they’re getting a little bit weaker and they notice that when they’re out walking they’re a little bit conscious of their balance or they’re worried a little bit more often that they’re going to fall,” Tutte said.

Before any issues or any slips and falls happen is the best time to start this class, Tutte added, as preventing a fall will drastically improve quality of life. If someone is injured in a fall, or has a fear of falling, they may begin to limit their trips outside as well as their other social activities.

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“Either they’ll have pain and they won’t be able to do the things they could do before, or they’ll just have fear and they’ll start limiting themselves. And they won’t have as much fun in their lives. They won’t feel like they have the quality in their life like they did before,” Tutte said.

This change has negative impacts on the person themselves, their family and the broader community around them as they are unable to take part in the life that they used to lead.

During a brief visit to the class, The Hope Standard observed a ball toss exercise that looked to be both a mental and a physical challenge. Participants do a lot of exercises sitting down and modifications are possible for just about every exercise the class does.

“In sitting, you can do a lot. You can work on flexibility. You can work on the strength both of your core, which helps your balance and strength of your legs and strength of your arms, and coordination and agility, which is really important for balance…There’s a ton of stuff you can do sitting down,” Tutte said.

“And then they’ll also do some walking and some standing exercises for balance and strength and agility. It depends a bit on the level of the class.”

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A lot of laughter was also observed, which Tutte said is also part of the reason for the class.

“It’s hard for people to go to something new, but once they get going they seem to really like it. And it’s a fun class so they’ll hopefully keep coming back because it’s fun,” she said.

Research suggests social activities like this one may be particularly important for older adults, with benefits ranging from better cognitive health, less depression, and lower risks of mortality or disability according to a Stat Can data review by Heather Gilmore.

Social connections are crucial throughout life but especially among seniors who face worrying rates of social isolation. An estimated 16 per cent of seniors experience social isolation and as Hope’s seniors’ population grows, so does the need to tackle isolation.

According to the 2011 census, 62 per cent of Hope’s citizens are between 15 and 64, and 24 per cent are 65 and over. The percentage of Hope’s population who are 65 years and older has grown steadily since 2010 and is expected to continue to grow over the next 10 years, according to data from the BC Centre for Disease Control.

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Tutte said the class aims to bring participants to a level of fitness that allows them to get outside and engage in the activities they enjoy. And, in turn, the community around them benefits from their participation in the community.

“So if they are well enough, both mentally and physically, to continue with those things then that’s good for the whole community too,” she said.

People interested in trying out Get Up & Go are encouraged to talk with their doctor and get a note to ensure it is safe for them to start gentle exercise. If they prefer to show up at the class, they can speak with the instructor to see if they are a good fit for the class.

Get Up & Go is held Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Hope rec centre at a $5 drop-in rate, with savings if people want to purchase a pack of 10 or 20 classes.

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