WEEKLY WORKOUT: Breathing LIFE Into Exercise

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Older Iowans are using new technology to stay mentally and physically fit, with the help of younger Iowans.

“We want a healthy aging population.  They can be just as physically active and strong as someone in their 20’s," said Sarah Francis, State Nutrition Extension and Outreach Specialist.

The program is called L.I.F.E., which stands for Living Well Through Intergenerational Fitness and Exercise.

"I think if I didn’t do this every day, I’d be home bound," said 85-year old Bonnie Florke.

Florke has had a hip and both knees replaced.  She's also had back surgery, two shoulder injuries and suffers from arthritis.  You'd understand if she decided to take it easy.  Instead, she uses a chair for balance as she kicks and punches to match the movements of the characters in a video game, displayed on a large-screen TV.  She says staying active keep her moving and young at heart.

"Like I go to ISU basketball games and I do the steps instead of doing the elevator."

She started taking part in the LIFE program two years ago.

"It looks at physical wellness, which is exercise and nutrition... it looks at emotional wellness, social wellness and intellectual wellness," says Francis.

LIFE was developed by Iowa State University researchers and is administered through ISU Extension and Outreach.  Video games are used to promote fitness to seniors, especially those living in rural areas.

"They have limited access to physical activity programs and wellness programs, so extension goes out throughout the state to offer that," said Francis.

The LIFE program is typically taught at senior centers and congregate meal sites by young, technologically savvy high school and college students.

Ciara McCarty, a Kinesiology major at ISU, taught LIFE in two counties last summer.  She says some of the participants were intimidated at first.

"I really had to push for them to go up and do it themselves."

Now, many of the participants wouldn't miss it.

"Of course we have the regulars that come every single time and absolutely love it," said McCarty.

Francis says it's a win-win for the students and teachers.

"The older adults love working with today’s younger adults and it’s been mutually beneficial for younger adults as well."

Florke couldn't agree more.

"It helps keep you young to be with the young ones... It's fun.  It’s something to get out of bed to do."

That's exactly what Francis likes to hear.

"We want physical activity to be viewed as a fun way to be active and we don't want it to be viewed as a chore."


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