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Get Up & Go

Special Gym Program Helps Those 60+ Get Fit

By Rhonda Mann
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center staff

Just two years ago, Madeline needed the assistance of a walker to get around following a bout with shingles. Now the 77-year-old is on her feet and working out in a specialized gym twice a week.

"It's given me a lot of strength," says Madeline, who is part of GET UP & GO, a unique gym-based program offered at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston. "There's a lot of individualized attention. It's like having your own personal trainer."

The importance of exercise in the senior years is well documented, according to Evelyn O'Neill, manager of outpatient exercise at Hebrew SeniorLife, affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

"We know that inactivity may increase the risk of some metabolic and psychological problems," says O'Neill, who emphasizes strength training at least twice per week and 30 minutes per day of aerobic or cardiovascular exercise to keep seniors fit. "Exercise is key to living a healthy, longer life. And who wants to live a longer life if they can't get around and do things on their own?"

While seniors can find plenty of ways to exercise - including biking, swimming and walking, a gym-like atmosphere can be intimidating for older adults, says O'Neill. The complicated equipment and even pounding music can make it uncomfortable. GET UP & GO, established five years ago, is a supervised gym program for those 60 and older, many of which have chronic illnesses.

"People with knee and or hip replacements, balance problems, heart disease have different concerns than most of us," says O'Neill, who has been part of the exercise research that's been done at the facility for the past 20 years. She says more than 65 people now participate in the program.

"I have people who are in their 90s exercising, people who have had strokes and now have left-side weakness - but you still need strength on that right side," she says. She recommends that anyone over 60 looking to start an exercise program discuss the options with their doctor.

There are also mental health benefits to the program, she says, including decreased depression, increased self-confidence, camaraderie with other members, and a real sense of belonging.

For Madeline, the sessions are something to look forward to.

"People don't miss it," she says.

It costs $100 to sign up for the program, which includes a full fitness evaluation, discussion of goals, and development of an exercise program. Then participants pay $150 for 16 visits. For more information on Get Up And Go, call 617-363-8539. The program is available at Hebrew SeniorLife's Roslindale and Brookline sites.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in partnership with Hebrew SeniorLife. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted July 2012

Contact Information

Division of Gerontology
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building #1B (West Campus)
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215

Contact Information

Hebrew Senior Life
1200 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131