How seniors can stay active when temperature drops

Indoor pools, walking tracks, classes help older adults keep fit in winter

Mary Terbay feels the difference when she skips a visit to Lohrey Recreation Center.

Her back will hurt longer, and by the end of the day her knee will hurt, too. Even when winter weather arrives, Terbay will find her way to the indoor pool, fitness room or one of her favorite classes.

“The biggest challenge is I don’t like to drive in the snow,” said the 70-year-old Dayton resident. “But I make myself go.”

Older adults who are devoted to staying active even when the temperature drops have a number of options through Dayton’s Department of Recreation, said Dana Prazynski, recreation program coordinator. The department operates three recreation centers: Lohrey, Northwest and Greater Dayton.

The two indoor pools that host programs – one at Lohrey and another at Northwest – are heated to a temperature in the mid-80s.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

“We have a very robust water fitness program,” she said, noting that it is especially beneficial for those with arthritis, joint ailments and back pain.

The department also offers aqua Zumba as well as hydrocycling, using a bike specifically made for the pool, she said.

Beyond the water, visitors also can use the indoor walking track at Greater Dayton Recreation Center, and all three centers offer SilverSneakers classes, she said. SilverSneakers classes are designed specifically with older adults in mind.

SilverSneakers, a national program, is available throughout the region at YMCAs and other fitness centers, including in Butler, Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble and Warren counties as well as online.

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Other indoor options vary from yoga to chair volleyball, in which competitors are seated and use a beach ball.

About 30 to 40 people participate in several of the more popular classes, Prazynski said. Other older adults like to use the facilities without enrolling in a class – swimming laps, for example, rather than joining a water fitness class.

“We’ve got a lot of different things going on for seniors,” Prazynski said.

Although gyms and fitness centers offer plenty of options during the cold winter months, older adults also may have many fitness resources available at home. These include fitness DVDs or online options, like YouTube or Zoom, she said. Any type of movement is valuable.

“I would definitely encourage people to do what will make them feel healthy and happy at home as well,” Prazynski said.

Those who continue to exercise outdoors during colder weather should pay greater attention to both stretching muscles before going out and relaxing them after returning, said Jennifer Giessler, the senior and adult program supervisor at the Charles I. Lathrem Senior Center in Kettering.

Stretching and strengthening also will assist with stability, which could help prevent bigger injuries during slips or small falls, Giessler said.

The center is on the campus of the Kettering Recreation Complex, and members get free access to the indoor walking track and discounts to the complex’s indoor swimming pool, fitness room, gymnasium and ice arena.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Participation among some of the more casual visitors tends to taper when it gets cold and dark earlier, and there are always a handful of people who don’t reengage when warmer weather returns after they lose their routine and consistency, she said.

“When spring comes around, they feel like they’re starting over,” she said.

Indoor walking tracks are a “gateway,” Giessler said. They are easy, don’t require a big commitment and allow walkers to see what else is happening nearby. Participants come for the physical activity and stay for the mental stimulation found during other scheduled events.

Although those who want to avoid the snow, ice and wind chill have options to workout at home, there is greater accountability when they join a class, she said. Others will know if they skip an in-person activity, but no one knows if an at-home fitness session is omitted.

“You’ve got to get out,” Giessler said. “You’ve got to take care of yourselves physically.”

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She suggests that older adults find and visit a place to work out before the winter weather rolls around, so when it hits they know where to go and what to do. Locate parking lots and entrances to be prepared even when the weather is less than ideal.

Terbay participates in a wide variety of activities all year long through Dayton’s Department of Recreation, including chair yoga, water aerobics, SilverSneakers classes and riding recumbent bicycles.

“When I go there and get the workout, I feel better mentally and much better physically,” Terbay said.

Terbay has found that she tends to have more time to work out in the winter, and it is also the season in which she doesn’t socialize as much. Her time at the recreation center helps with that, whether she is meeting friends or chatting with other participants.

“There’s a big social network there, too,” Terbay said. “In the winter you probably need that more than anytime else.”

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