96-year-old woman stays active by attending a seated exercise class twice a week

By Aley Davis, KSL TV | Posted - Dec. 5, 2019 at 7:34 p.m.

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ST. GEORGE — For some, it's not always easy to exercise as you get older, but one St. George woman has found a creative way to stay active no matter her age.

Dorothy Varney strolls into a seated exercise class twice a week with her walker. At age 96, she doesn't let anything stop her.

"Oh yes, I'm the oldest one everywhere,” she said with a chuckle. “I never thought I'd get there!”

But for Varney, it's pretty straightforward.

"Here I am, this age, and there must be a reason for it, and I should take the best care of myself that I can," she explained.

Intermountain Healthcare's Chanda Vaniman, an exercise specialist at the Dixie Regional Live Well Center, teaches a seated class designed for people using a wheelchair, walker or cane.

“You can work the whole body from a chair,” she said. The class focuses on both muscle strength and endurance, with a goal to help people participate in daily activities more easily.

Varney’s been attending the class for more than three years. She said she feels like she is getting stronger and feeling more confident.

“I think that it's given me a little confidence in what I can do,” she said. "One of the best things was learning to get up from a chair.”

Vaniman said the instructors get creative by using resistance bands, weights and discs to exercise different parts of the body while remaining seated.

“Just because you can't stand doesn't mean you shouldn't be working your muscles," Vaniman said.

She said it's especially important as people get older. "If we stop moving, then we're in big trouble because things don't work anymore,” Vaniman said

Vaniman said she is always impressed that even after reporting a fall, Varney shows up at class. “She'd come in a little beat up but would come because she said, ‘I know it's really important to keep moving,’” Vaniman said.

Just because you can't stand doesn't mean you shouldn't be working your muscles.

–Chanda Vaniman, Intermountain Healthcare

“They're always understanding about some weakness you have. Just don't push it. Just do what you can do comfortably,” she said.

Vaniman said the class is keeping Varney mobile and independent.

Varney is able to live alone in her daughter’s walkout basement since she is in good health. “She's a prime example of that, and just keep coming and doing what you can do instead of worrying about what you can't do,” Vaniman said.

Staying fit isn't the only reason Varney comes to this class. She said it also helps her stay socially connected.

"I've become acquainted with everyone in the class, and they're all my friends!” she said. “I want to come and see what's going on, how they're doing."

One of Varney's daughters, Laurel Paul, said the social engagement is just as valuable as her mother's physical health.

“She looks forward to those two days a week that she comes here,” Paul said. "If there's something happening, she wants to do it."

The Build Me Up class is offered at Intermountain Healthcare's Live Well centers throughout the state, and is available to individuals with mobility challenges who may be using assistive walking devices.


Aley Davis

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