I talked about the seriousness of falls for elders in my last blog. One of the best things you can do for yourself to avoid falls is exercise.

The exercise can take many forms including, walking, swimming, strength training, aerobics and balance exercises. If you are one of the lucky ones who can still play golf, tennis or ski – good for you. But many of us can no longer enjoy those types of activities.

Charlie and I enrolled in a strength training class when we moved here to our Senior Living Center at Quail Hollow. The classes are reasonably priced - $8.00 for a one-hour class. The classes are taught by a certified instructor – this is important to insure that you are not doing things beyond your capabilities and are doing them correctly.

I first enrolled alone; Charlie was afraid it would just be a bunch of old hens clucking and showing off their 70-something figures.

To my surprise, there was a gentleman in the class that had been recommended by his doctor to help him recover from a minor stroke. He was one of the three in the class doing chair exercises for those whose balance and strength is so poor that standing exercises are not appropriate.

When Charlie learned that he wouldn't be the sole rooster in the hen house, he signed up for the classes.

Because of his paralysis he was a "chair-person." That was fine with him.

It wasn't long before the other gentleman had medical problems that left him unable to participate.

Charlie, who was, by now, comfortable in his role as the alpha male, decided to continue.

We both have benefited greatly by the strength and balance training we are getting from the classes.

There are a few things you should remember if you are going to join an exercise class: wear good athletic shoes and comfortable clothing, and regular attendance is a must to maintain your level of improvement. A few missed classes can put you back considerably.

Studies have shown that there is a 40 percent reduction of falls in people that participate in strength training classes. Strength-building exercises improve bone density, reduce the risk of fractures, result in higher muscle mass providing crucial weight control, and may increase the metabolic rate by as much as 15 percent. Exercise in general also has an impact in helping manage diabetes, depression and sleep problems.

You don't have to participate in managed classes to achieve the same benefits as long as some safety rules are followed:

  • When doing a prescribed set of exercises at home use a sturdy chair, placed either on a carpet or against a wall for stability.
  • When purchasing dumbbell weights for home use you should buy 2-3 & 5 pound weights for women, and 3-5 & 8 pound weights for men, gradually increasing the weight use over time. Ankle weights should be similar.
  • Soup cans are a good substitute in place of dumbbells if you would rather not purchase weights.
  • Weight use should be done in two sets of ten.

Don't be intimidated by fear of not being able to keep up if you are considering an exercise class. You will find all levels of abilities in these classes and the ones that seem the most capable may not be the healthiest.

We had a woman in her mid-eighties in our class. She skied, golfed and played tennis, and we were in awe of her. Until one morning, we walked into class and found she had died of a stroke the night before. Undoubtedly, it was her exercise protocols that had kept her going, but it made me realize that I should not let someone else's apparent fitness intimidate me.

I realize that the quality and length of my life may depend on whether or not I exercise regularly.

As for Charlie, he is enjoying all the attention; after all – he may be the only male these women encounter from one class to the next.