Seniors pumped up over fitness results

NANAIMO: Classes at Bowen Park combine cardio, balance and strength work for a healthy mind and body.

Russell McNeil

Russell McNeil

Keeping fit as you age is an important step in ensuring independence and healthy living.

Russell McNeil, a senior’s fitness instructor for the City of Nanaimo’s parks, recreation and culture department, said neglecting some muscle groups can lead to several health problems later in life that affect mobility and overall health.

Some health problems can stem from three major areas – hamstrings, hip-flexor and chest muscles, said McNeil.

Because many people spend so much time sitting throughout the day, these muscles tend to tighten and shorten.

If the muscles are left for long-periods of time without any exercise to re-lengthen or strengthen them, by the time a person gets into their senior years it can lead to problems, said McNeil. He said sometimes stoops or problems walking can be caused by these tight muscles.

Exercising the back muscles in important as well.

McNeil said people tend to have stronger muscles in their front chest area than their back. That imbalance can lead to problems, but it is an area that can be worked on.

“Your posture will benefit enormously,” he said, about exercising this muscle group. “If you leave the muscles unstretched it throws the whole process out of whack.”

McNeil teaches Level 1 and 2 senior fitness classes at Bowen Park as part of the Harbour City Seniors activities. The classes are geared toward people 60 and older.

“There are an incredibly fit cohort of people in that age group,” he said.

Level 2 builds on the fitness exercises learned in the Level 1 course, which increase the strength and flexibility people have gained previously.

McNeil said it’s a typical mixed fitness class that includes elements of strength, balance, cardio and stretching. The classes start with cardio exercises and then move to balance and strength exercises.

During the strength exercises participants use a variety of weights and resistance bands to tone. Then the class moves on to about a 15-minute core workout and finishes off with a five-minute stretch and cool down.

McNeil said there are three components that create a healthy lifestyle: mind, body and spirit. You can’t just do two of them in isolation and experience a healthy lifestyle.

For more information on the seniors’ fitness classes, please call 250-756-5200 or go to