Seniors at Skyline on Capitol Hill turn chairs into seats of power as they stretch, strengthen and get the blood flowing.
I WAS IN a chair, but instead of sitting still, my limbs were moving, and my blood was flowing.
This was a seated fitness class at Skyline, a continuing-care retirement community on First Hill. Skyline has 30-plus fitness classes each week for its residents, and I wanted to know more about how folks stay active well into their retirement.
As residents trickled in, most on their own and a couple with walkers, I grabbed a resistance band and 5-pound hand weights, and took a seat.
Fitness manager Lisa Brudvik warmed us up with neck stretches, arm circles and hip hinges. We did gentle twists, reaching with our arms and turning to the side.
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I wondered whether we would stay focused on the upper body, but Brudvik soon had us warming up our ankles and doing toe taps to get the blood circulating in our legs. We lifted our legs and did holds to strengthen our hip flexors, and did leg extensions to work into our quadriceps.
To challenge our brains, she had us take our arms up in a cactus shape, then lift one leg and tap it with the opposite palm. We did a variety of taps, switching up the cross-body pattern for extra challenge.
We moved to standing behind the chairs, working first on balance. For the tandem balance, we placed one foot directly in front of the other, spreading our weight evenly. Before we turned our heads to one side, Brudvik advised us to hold the chair if we were worried about balance. It was surprisingly hard to stay upright, though the rest of the group looked cool and collected.
We also balanced on one leg and stepped the other foot forward, to the side and to the back to work into hips and glutes. Brudvik led us through gentle lunges, forward and back.
For cardio, we marched in place to start. Things got more vigorous as we moved our arms in sync with our legs. For one song, we did modified jumping jacks mixed with arm reaches doing The Twist, Chubby Checker-style. We did modified squats, sitting down and standing up.
We sat down for strengthening, using resistance bands for rows and biceps curls. We wrapped the band around our legs and pressed our knees out to work into the outer hips. For hand-weight exercises, we pressed one weight overhead and added small or big circles.
We ended with chair stretches, crossing one ankle over the opposite knee to stretch hips, hamstring opening and turning sideways to drop one knee toward the floor for a hip flexor stretch.
I was impressed by the vitality of the group, many of whom took on the challenging variations. I also took mental notes on how to keep blood circulating while seated — ideal for travel.
After class, a petite woman Brudvik told me was one of the most active residents at Skyline came up to me. “I’m Albertha Dorsey, and I’m 93,” she announced.
Her daily routine includes four classes, such as Tai Chi or water aerobics, and walking a couple of miles. She was staying after the seated fitness class for another class, and planned on Zumba that night. When she was younger, she biked, said Dorsey. During class, I noticed she barely touched her chair in standing segments.
“I’ve been exercising all my life,” she said.
Another woman chimed in, “When I grow up, I want to be like Albertha.”