A workout routine 60 years in the making

College students aren’t the only ones trying to stay fit. Every morning at Campus Recreation Center East, adults ages 55 and over are participating in the Lifetime Fitness Program, which is led by students enrolled in a kinesiology course called “Exercise Instruction and the Elderly.”

Easily spotted in their green “LFP” T-shirts, undergraduate students lead the participants through seven different fitness exercises while being supervised by two graduate students.

“It really tests what you know,” said kinesiology graduate student Anne Parrett. “They will come up to you and grill you with questions about why this hurts or that hurts, and you really put what you learned to the test.”

LFP started more than 60 years ago to research the effects of exercise on health.

Directed by kinesiology professor Ellen Evans, anyone of age from the Champaign-Urbana area can enroll in the program. Some members have been going for more than 15 years.

“It’s something I look forward to,” said Carol Ordal, 73, of Urbana. “It’s not punishment, which exercise sometimes can be.”

Knowing many of the members have been coming for so long, the instructors are challenged to come up with new exercises for the group.

“They really like new exercises,” said instructor and senior in kinesiology P.J. Engracia. “We try and shake it up and use new and different exercises.”

The graduate students also get experience managing a program and critiquing form, while the undergraduates get experience working with the elderly.

“They want to adopt you as grandchildren,” Parrett said. “I wouldn’t want to do this if they were cranky.”

Evans explained that the program is beneficial for both the participants and the students who run it. The community members are provided with an opportunity for fitness as they age, while the students gain perspective on the elderly.

“The students may think that older people aren’t very functional and that as you get older you become more sedentary,” Evans said. “However, when they meet our members and work with them, they see that they are very functional and active and engaged individuals.”

The instructors lead the participants through 30-minute segments of each type of exercise: stretching, strength, balance, core, flow motion (simplified Tai-Chi), aerobics and pool exercises.

Participants can come anytime between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday through Friday. Although it is on campus, the program runs during “non prime-time hours” of the gym, so everything can still run smoothly.

Ordal has noticed a significant difference in her everyday life from participating in the program for eight years.

She said she has better balance, more strength in her quads and lower cholesterol. Ordal feels fortunate that the University has a program for her to utilize.

“I really like the group motivation.” Ordal said. “It’s much easier to exercise as a group than to try and motivate yourself at home.”

Ordal has recommended the program to her friends and has made several friends in the process.

The program is also designed to get elderly people in the community to bond and motivate each other, Parrett said. Parrett and Engracia agree that the people are the best part of the program.

“Anytime you connect with other people, it is pretty rewarding.” said Engracia. “They are appreciative of our time too.”