Maria Hardesty joins us to discuss how important health, wellness, and fitness can be as we age. She also shares just a few of the fitness success stories she's witnessed as the full-time fitness coordinator at The Lakeside at Amelia Island.

Video Transcript

- Hello everybody. And welcome into Senior Living Live. My name is Melissa. I hope you are having a fantastic day today. Well, one fantastic feature the Arbor Company has been adding to a few of their communities is a full-time fitness coordinator and the results have been pretty amazing. And today we want to share some of those examples with you to prove just how important health, wellness, and fitness can be as we age. Maria Hardesty is with me now. She is the Fitness Coordinator at our community, Lakeside at Amelia island. Maria, how are you doing today?

- I am great. And it's nice to be here and thank you for giving me this opportunity.

- Yeah, absolutely. Well, I know you've got some great examples and stories to share. We'll get to that in a minute but first tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for the Arbor Company.

- Okay, well, I have 20 years from the fitness industry. I'm a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and I have specific certifications in senior fitness, women's fitness, weight loss specialist. I'm also a certified Live Strong Instructor, which is a, for cancer survivors, diabetes prevention program. So a nice array of experience that I bring to the Lakeside of Amelia Island. I have been here since last October so only been here six months and it's been fabulous because I'm the first fitness coordinator here.

- Yeah, excellent. And yes, you're, you have a wide ranging background which can help so many different people and you are doing that. So what are the benefits of having someone like you at a community full time as a wellness and fitness coordinator?

- Well, the nice thing about being here full time is the continuity that it provides the residents. In the past, they had instructors that would come in, teach a fabulous class and then leave. However, they're still getting all those fabulous classes taught by me, but then I am able to be in the fitness center. I have an open fitness policy where residents can come in, I'm able to create specific individualized programs for them, show them how to use all the equipment, and really help decrease the fear. There's fear around, you use the word fitness and exercise and everybody thinks very negatively at times. Especially as we age, there is a fear of hurting ourselves or not doing it correctly or not knowing what to do. So the nice thing about me being here all day is I'm available to our residents in all the different living areas, independent, assisted, and memory care. So, they have an opportunity to come and speak with me, share with me what their fitness goals or desires may be.

- Yeah, so working with seniors specifically, what have you learned about the benefits of fitness really at any age? And I have to believe that some exercise is better than no exercise, correct?

- Absolutely, and you know, especially for our seniors there is this mentality that, oh, I'm too old to do that, or it's too late. I haven't started now. So, it's never too late to move. And again, there's this preconception that exercise is pushups, jumping jacks, doing this crazy high energy stuff. But I focus on a lot of functional exercise. So a lot of it is seated. For our seniors here, you know, they sit a lot. Many are in wheelchairs or in walkers, so their gait is impacted. So exercise for our seniors can involve some very simple but very effective moves. So, all my classes try and really touch on functional fitness to help their mobility and flexibility.

- Yeah, and you have some examples of that and how that has helped. And so give us some of those examples who, of people perhaps who have aged backwards.

- Right.

- From fitness with you.

- Right, well, I have a lovely couple. She actually had a stroke about eight weeks ago. They started coming to my Silver Sneaker classes and I also do a balance, stretch, and strength class where we use nothing but our own body to support ourselves. And the lady, her desire was to be able to kneel in church and now she can. And they're extremely excited about that. So that was a real feel good. Another gentleman, a simple thing. He can now put his shoes on. He can tie his shoes because he is able to bend his knee and bring his leg up to his body and tie his shoes. So, that's where I talk about the functional fitness. Sometimes during the class, you don't know how it's impacting yourself or the residents but then they'll come to you and say, "I can tie my shoe laces." Another lovely gentleman who is in independent living, you know, he said, "When I would signal when I was driving, "we as humans, what do we do?" We signal but we all look back.

- Right.

- He was not able to have that rotation and now he can. So, sometimes they don't realize the progress they're making until something like that happens. And then it's wonderful that they bring that to me.

- Yeah and as you mentioned, this functional fitness, you've been there six months. So we're looking at the course of time that these individuals have been able to see those sort of small steps create big things within their lives.

- Right, right.

- It's just amazing. It is just amazing. And that's why we're having this conversation today because it doesn't take years and years, you know when you're younger, you're working on those abs you're working on the muscles and those can take time to develop.

- Absolutely.

- These things, man, it's, you know you have someone like yourself you can go to every single day and work on it a little bit more here and there.

- Absolutely.

- And all of a sudden a couple weeks later, it's like, wow I can do things I haven't been able to do in years.

- Absolutely.

- It's wonderful.

- Yeah.

- Yeah, I love that. So what are some tips? You know, we've got our viewers here that are watching for them who, you know, they might not have access to somebody like yourself.

- Right, right.

- Some things that they can do that will help net them the same sort of improvements in their physical and mental wellbeing?

- Right, well, there's the simple thing if they're able to, whether it be, you know, with a cane or a walker, take those few steps every day. Again, you don't need to do 45 minutes to an hour of exercise because that's very off putting as well, especially if you're doing it on your own. Two or three minutes just here and there is better than nothing. So practicing with that walker or with your cane, just stepping, you know, gentle walking, sitting and standing from your seated position. That is a huge one here. We practice that all the time because I hear people say. "I can't even get out of my chair." So, it's just little movements like that. You know and also there are, I know some seniors aren't privy to it but you know, there is Google, there is the internet, and there is some, you know you can go on YouTube and Google senior fitness and there is some wonderful tips there. You know, if you're standing at the sink, just, you know, tapping your foot to the side and to the back just activating those glutes and hip flexors. So, it's slight movements like that that can help your everyday functioning ability.

- Yeah and really, you know, it's exercise that meets you where you're at, you know fitness that meets you where you're at, so.

- Absolutely.

- And that's why we don't want it to be a daunting thing. We want it to be something you can incorporate almost every single day and then be able to see the benefits that your many residents have been able to see.

- Absolutely, yeah.

- I love these stories so much. It makes me happy to hear and it sort of that aging backwards, if you will or just kind of resetting your body back to what you remember it could do. So, wonderful stories and I like these tips, Maria. I think you're gonna be able to help some of our viewers right now today who are probably moving their feet as we sit.

- Right, that's it, you can just lift your heels as we're sitting here, lift those toes, you know? Yeah, absolutely.

- That's fantastic. Well, we do thank you for being here with us and for sharing your tips and these incredible stories.

- Thank you so much. It's been an absolute pleasure.

- Thank you. Now, health and fitness, of course is just one aspect of senior living. Over at, we arm you with all kinds of information regarding all aspects of senior living, of course, health and fitness as a biggie. So head on over there, check out the rest of our content. 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is all free, of course. So thank you so much for watching Senior Living Live. Have a great day, everybody.

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