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Older adults in Lewis County have the opportunity to participate in a weekly exercise program. Fortunately, there will be no need to drive to a class location and no risk of embarrassing moments as the whole thing will be online. Arbor Health—Rehabilitation Services first offered the Enhance Fitness virtual exercise program in 2021 through a partnership with the University of Washington (UW), which conducted a clinical study on the effectiveness of virtual exercise classes. After the class and clinical study was over, Arbor Health continued offering the evidence-based three-month programs with the same instructor to benefit older adults in the area and continues so today. In fact, Arbor Health continues to be a site for UW medical studies.

Arbor Health Enhance Fitness virtual exercise program
The virtual exercise program includes a warm-up and cool-down, as demonstrated in this video screenshot. Photo courtesy: Arbor Health—Morton Hospital

Enhance Your Fitness With Arbor Health

The next Enhance Fitness class is set to begin on March 27. Enhance Fitness will be offered three times a week, starting at 10:10 a.m. on Mondays and 9:10 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. The cost is $125. Rehab Services Director Edwin Meelhuysen reports that there are generous scholarships available for Lewis County residents. Those interested in pursuing a scholarship can contact him at rehab.services@MyArborHealth.org or 360.496.3593.

Instructor Gina Cassanova is certified through the American Council on Exercise and has been an exercise instructor for 44 years. In addition to being an Enhance Fitness instructor, she is also a master instructor, enabling her to teach other instructors on the program.

Gina feels the virtual Enhance Fitness program is excellent because it offers people convenience that an in-person class wouldn’t. She explained that the class participants could see each other on the screen when they first got online—before the exercise began—and then again afterward. However, the participants’ screens show only Gina during the actual class. She, though, can see everyone throughout to monitor for safety issues. If she sees a student being unsafe or in poor form, she never calls them out by name. Instead, she gives instructions to the group, such as “Everybody stand up nice and tall.”

In the timespan before and after the exercise, Gina says, “We get to know each other, and we have fun. We look forward to being in class together. It kind of becomes a remote family.”

Arbor Health Enhance Fitness virtual exercise program
The entire exercise program is designed with the older adult in mind. Photo courtesy: Arbor Health—Morton Hospital

Adult Virtual Fitness for All Levels

The virtual fitness classes include people of all levels of ability. “We have people who are doing it seated and standing,” she says. She teaches the program so participants can do it at their own level. “Enhance Fitness is for all levels. It is for everyone,” Gina says. “It’s not complicated to follow. I really break it down for everyone. And it is evidence-based, so it’s proven to be good for older adults of every level, including frail older adults.”

The program helps the participants with balance, strength, and endurance while assisting participants to keep their independence for life. “It helps them with everyday tasks and agility, flexibility, range of motion and posture.” She adds that it helps with muscle mass, strength, cardiac function, aerobic endurance, blood circulation and bone density. “And it can also improve health conditions such as blood pressure and depression.”

Arbor Health Enhance Fitness virtual exercise program
Screenshots from a recent online class show how Instructor Gina Cassanova demonstrates using a chair for various exercises. Photo courtesy: Arbor Health—Morton Hospital

Enhance Fitness has also been shown to improve balance and thus reduce the risk of falling, another considerable concern among seniors.

Gina is 66 years old. She has five children and five grandchildren and lives in Arizona.

Click here to register for Arbor Health’s next Virtual Fitness Program class, starting on March 27.

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