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Exercising Seniors Have a New Option


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Over the years, seniors have written or called to ask about home exercise equipment appropriate for them. Many are sedentary, but would like to start a fitness program that helps them feel alive and reduces health risks. Others have conditions such as osteoporosis or have had procedures such as hip replacement surgery that prevent them from being as active as they used to be.

Sometimes, grown-up children are the ones who ask me what they can buy for their parents.

Sadly, there aren't a lot of choices. The fitness-equipment industry still focuses mostly on younger customers. But there are a few promising efforts.

One comes from Lake Forest, Calif.-based Continuing Fitness, which launched the Resistance Chair Exercise System on shopping channel QVC in September. The system, which is designed to be a home gym, consists of a substantial, nonskid folding chair with attached resistance cables and a foot rest. The cables are available in four levels of resistance. A manual and DVD guide exercisers through set-up and strengthening and stretching routines.

Seniors perform most of the strength-training exercises for the arms, chest, shoulders, abdominals, back and legs while seated.

The seated exercises include the chest press for the pecs and the triceps, biceps curls for the arms and ab crunches. Some exercises for the legs and lower body are done standing while holding on to the back of the chair.

Gary Mirsky, owner of a Gold's Gym, bought one for his mother in April. Beverly Mirsky, 83, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., tried the chair system during a visit to Gold's earlier in the year. Her son had ordered two of the chairs to test them at the club. "My mom had knee-replacement surgery because she had an osteoporotic knee," Gary Mirsky said. "She loves the chair."

He added that the chair system addresses the needs of seniors "who have slowed down and need a more passive style of exercise." Some home gyms can be too intimidating or less user-friendly to seniors, he said.

Price was another plus. At $230, the chair system costs much less than a typical cable-resistance machine but slightly more than a basic exercise bench and resistance bands.

There are no studies showing whether the Resistance Chair is effective and safe in improving strength among seniors. But Generations Healthcare, an assisted living facility in Newport Beach, Calif., is trying it out with its residents. SilverSneakers Fitness Program is evaluating the system as well, Mirsky said.

You can get more details at www.continuingfitness.com.

To begin physical activity, go to http://firststeptoactivehealth.com/youcan/.

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(Lisa Liddane is a health and fitness writer for The Orange County Register and an American Council on Exercise-certified group fitness instructor. Write to her at the Register, P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, Calif. 92711 or send e-mail to lliddane(AT)ocregister.com.)

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(c) 2005, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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