Light workout pays off

Seniors may not be interested in pounding a treadmill, but exercise continues to have its benefits.

Eleanor Berger, 74, of Altoona can attest to that.

She tore her rotator cuff about 1 years ago while leading her horse into its stall. Berger said she was walking along side the horse, holding the reins.

“The horse took off, and my arm didn’t quite go with him,” she said.

Her doctor recommended physical therapy. After her therapy ended, the doctor was considering surgery. However, he said if she exercised, she might be able to avoid an operation.

Berger began to work out at a Healthy Steps in Motion class this winter at the Central Blair Senior Center. The program, which was designed by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, includes a warm-up and cool down, as well as weight resistance, balance and strength training exercises.

Berger is seeing results from her regimen.

“Two months ago, I couldn’t lift a three-pound weight, and now I can,” she said.

She said she keeps her arm moving so it does not flare-up again.

Berger said the class, which meets at 9:45 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, is free, and she depends on the Senior Services van for transportation.

The exercise is a priority, but the plus is all the friends she has met.

“This is the friendliest group that I have ever run across,” she said. “They are wonderful.”

About 16 seniors attend Berger’s class that is led by Sabby Pierannunzio. Classes are held at sites throughout Blair County. Pierannunzio, who is 90, teaches an 8:30 a.m. class as well. She has been leading seniors in exercises that promote balance, strength and flexibility for about 17 years.

“She’s the Energizer Bunny,” said Maggie Dodson, who along with her husband, Jesse, attends the classes.

In addition to helping muscles, Pierannunzio believes the exercises help to keep her mind alert and lets her forget her troubles.

She said she has sciatic nerve pain in her left hip and discomfort in her right knee despite having a torn meniscus repaired years ago. She refuses to let either ailment stop her.

“If you sit at home, you pity yourself. If you stay active, you forget your troubles,” she said.

Dodson, 78, of Altoona said the program gets her and her husband, Jesse, 79, out of the house. Maggie said she encouraged Jesse to go about 10 years ago and she began accompanying him about eight years ago when she retired.

“We try to be here three times a week,” she said. Maggie added that Jesse has Parkinson’s Disease and the workout strengths his muscles.

John Logan, 87, of Altoona joined the class about 1 years ago for flexibility.

“I had some [physical] problems,” he explained, “and go no longer golf or bowl. This is one of the things I could do.”

For Elverda Holtz, 91, of Altoona, the exercise class loosens her joints and muscles. She has been part of the class since 2000 with only a break for health reasons.

Erma DeBernardis, 89, of Altoona has also been attending the class for 12 years but she can only squeeze it in one day a week. She said she is too busy taking care of grandchildren and helping her 101-year-old sister-in-law.

“It keeps me limber,” she said of the class. “It keeps my old bones moving.”