Fitness classes help seniors stay active

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Garden View Place, in Monona, offers free Live 2 B Healthy senior fitness classes three times per week. Both Garden View residents and other community members are welcome to join. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Live 2 B Healthy attendees like Esther Werges utilize bands, balls and other methods to stretch, lift and bend their way to better health. The goal is to improve balance, flexibility and strength.

Finding the wonder in winter: Part 3

Who said there’s nothing to do in northeast Iowa during the winter? Well, we’re not buying it. Over the coming weeks, the North Iowa Times will continue to feature some of the fun, healthy and educational activities area residents can enjoy during the colder months.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

When people make their New Year’s resolutions, being more physically active is often at the top of the list. Garden View Place in Monona wants to help local seniors reach that goal through weekly Live 2 B Healthy fitness classes.

Offered at 10:45 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the classes concentrate on improving balance, flexibility and strength, said Garden View Place Life Enrichment Coordinator Sara Wagner.

“It’s all about keeping that muscle tone,” she noted. “If seniors just use it, they can maintain their balance and their movement.”

That plays a big role in fall prevention.

“One fall,” she said, “can determine if someone lives in their home or here independently, or has to go to a skilled care facility.”

The free Live 2 B Healthy classes are open to not only Garden View residents, but seniors who live outside the facility as well. Nearly 20 people participate regularly, and Wagner encourages more to join. Seniors of all ability levels can attend.

“We welcome those with walkers or canes,” she said. “They’re ones who really benefit.”

Wagner leads the classes, instructing attendees on a series of simple methods to stretch, lift and bend their way to better health. The group often utilizes exercise balls or bands to work their arms, legs and core. Deep breathing, paired with meditation and mindfulness activities, is also part of the class.

Wagner said it’s rewarding to see the strides participants have made in the year since Garden View began offering Live 2 B Healthy. 

“When we started, there was a lot of grumbling, a lot of, ‘Oh, I can’t do that,’” she shared. “Now, the improvement is just amazing. They’ve gone from thinking eight [reps of an exercise] was too many to doing 15 a couple of times.”

“They realize they can do this stuff,” she added. “And, now, there are some who are able to help someone else.”

Attendees are noticing an improvement as well.

“It gets you moving,” said Helen Meyer. “I feel a lot more limber.”

Esther Werges, who tries to reach 4,000 steps each day, appreciates being active. Wagner makes the classes both healthy and fun.

“She is so good with us,” Werges said.

In addition to improving balance and preventing injuries, Wagner said Live 2 B Healthy has helped participants sleep and eat better and reduce the amount of medication they’re taking. There are mental and cognitive benefits too.

“Exercising releases endorphins and makes you feel good,” noted Wagner. “Many dementias are due to poor circulation, so if you get that blood pumping, it can help.”

Meeting other seniors—building camaraderie—feeds into that as well.

“There’s so much social connection, so much fun,” Wagner said.

Want to know more? Live 2 B Healthy senior fitness classes are held at Garden View Place in Monona every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10:45 a.m. For more information, or to register for the class, contact Sara Wagner at (563) 380-3839 or

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