Exercise one key to healthy aging
Leader Carol Tiedje instructs during an adult recreation club exercise class Nov. 28 at the Norridge Park District. Tiedje lives in Norridge. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:43AM
NORRIDGE — If you want to stay healthy as you get older, Carol Tiedje has a tip.
“Exercise, then socialize,” said Tiedje, who leads an exercise class for the Norridge Park District’s Adult Recreation Club. “It’s the best thing.”
So Tiedje, a Norridge resident, tries to spend time with her students outside of class.
“I just love being with the people here,” she said. “They’re very congenial.
“And we don’t just exercise. We go out for breakfast, or lunch.”
Robert Mapes, director of program and community support with AgeOptions, noted the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend more strenuous exercise for those at least 65 years of age.
AgeOptions is an Oak-Park-based, nonprofit agency that strives to improve the quality of life of suburban Cook County residents through programs and services.
In addition to cardio exercises, the CDC recommends adding weight-bearing activities to maintain muscle mass and bone density, Mapes said.
The agency recommends exercising 150 minutes per week, but it doesn’t have to be all at once. Shorter sessions, even 10 minutes at a time, are fine.
Tiedje said the adult class helps keep her flexible while improving strength and balance.
She noted some class members may not be able to follow along, but they still enjoy being with others.
“We say, ‘If it hurts, don’t do it,’” she said. “You can modify it.”
About 20 people are in the class, ranging in age from 60 to nearly 90.
“It keeps you in shape physically and mentally,” Tiedje said. “That’s a big thing as you get older.
“And the class gets people to do things here that they never would do on their own.”
In addition to exercising, older Americans need to take stock of their nutritional needs.
“Cooking and eating are very social activities,” said Ellin Learned, a registered dietician at AgeOptions. “It’s difficult to cook for one.”
Nutrition is one of the major factors in aging healthfully, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Food not only is critical to one’s physiological well-being, but also contributes to social, cultural and psychological quality of life, according to an study on food and nutrition for older adults.
Many Area Agency on Aging sites serve a well-balanced lunch each weekday, for a suggested donation of about $3.
“The meal contains one-third of the nutrients you need each day,” Learned said. “Sometimes more.”
And some centers tailor their meals to those they serve.
“In Niles, it’s vegetarian because of the many people from the Middle East,” Learned said. “In Mount Prospect, it’s Korean. And it’s authentic.”
In addition to providing meals and exercise programs, many sites offer entertainment and workshops.
“It’s not all health-related,” Learned said. “It’s a place for socialization, for making new friends.
“Many times, that pushes people to do more.”
Whether it’s a seminar, a meal or just moving about, getting out and being with other people is essential, said Julie Gersky, ARC coordinator.
“We all absolutely need that stimulation,” she said.