A question that usually arises when I am speaking with people who exercise on a regular basis is: “Can an older person safely begin an exercise program and reap benefits?”
I decided to speak with fitness instructor Maggie Davis. She started working out to keep herself in shape and has been a certified trainer for the past 25 years.
“I enjoy it and enjoy making a career out of motivating others,” she explained when I talked to her at her charming old farmhouse. She left a career in film and came to the Island almost a quarter of a century ago.
Maggie said she has a wide range of participants in her programs, including many senior citizens. She noted that sometimes seniors feel intimidated “but must get over that. You can work on muscle building and you can go at your own pace, improving your quality of life at any age.”
She said that spinning, strength training and other exercise programs are known to improve cognitive skills and heart health.
“The list of health benefits associated with exercise is extensive and includes bone health, disease prevention, blood sugar and blood pressure regulation, cardiovascular health and immune support to name a few,” she continued.
For older folks who have physical constraints, Maggie recommends walking 20 minutes a day. Like all exercise, it must be done on a regular basis.
“The biggest frustration for a trainer is lack of consistency. Exercise needs to be a habit to provide benefits.”
She recommends building up slowly, getting stronger a little bit at a time. It’s never too late to start a fitness program and the benefits far outweigh the risks, Maggie told me, adding that “modern medicine has developed the science to keep us alive longer, but if we do not exercise and eat healthy foods, those extra years won’t be quality years.”
Opportunities for organized exercise on the Island include the FIT Center at the Shelter Island School, which is open to residents for a reasonable fee, spinning and TRX classes at Shelter Island Yoga and Fitness at the Dering Harbor Inn, Zumba with Callie Atkins at the Legion, senior yoga with Jean Lawless at the Senior Activity Center and yoga with Heidi Fokine in the Historical Society’s Haven House barn.
So if you are determined to start a regimen of exercise, check with your physician first, then start slowly, be consistent and make it a habit. You will notice physical benefits and will probably enjoy the social contacts made with others who are exercising.
Maggie’s fitness class, sponsored by the Town of Shelter Island Recreation Department, meets
every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:30 a.m. at Fiske Field (weather permitting).
In the fall, the class moves indoors to the Youth Center. The cost is $5 per class or $45 for a 10-class card. All levels are welcome and she said she’s “happy to provide modifications for beginners.”