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PACC trainer offers fitness advice for seniors

Exercising provides many health benefits for senior citizens, but getting started can be difficult. Perham Area Community Center trainer Taylin Schleicher shared some advice on how to begin.

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Taylin Schleicher is a personal trainer at the Perham Area Community Center who primarily works with seniors.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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PERHAM — "Use it or lose it" seems to be a popular phrase among Perham seniors, at least in Taylin Schleicher's personal experience.

Schleicher, a PACC personal trainer and wellness coordinator, primarily works with and trains senior community members. While she maintains that exercising is important for anyone of any age, it's especially important for older folks.

"Once we hit that retirement age, we just kind of want to relax, which is a good thing," she said. "But it's important to keep our physical health good too because a lot of people tend to lose muscle mass a lot faster and bone mass a lot faster as they age … We want to keep our functional abilities."

In Schleicher's eyes, it's never too late to start exercising. For those who've never been particularly athletic, or never made it a priority, getting started can be intimidating. According to Schleicher, however, there are plenty of advantages to taking that unnerving first step into the world of bodily fitness.

"I would say there's a lot of health benefits besides getting in shape," Schleicher said. "We can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. We can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, or we can try to control some of those diagnoses with exercise."

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Schleicher shows one of the low-impact exercise machines popular with seniors at the PACC.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Though exercise is important, finding out where to start or what is good for your body, especially as a senior, can be difficult. That's where people like Schleicher come in. Scheicher said that starting out small is the way to go.

If someone has never exercised before, starting off by getting up and walking for about five to 10 minutes a day is a good way to begin. Once you get used to those smaller intervals, slowly increase the number of minutes to 30 a day. She believes that's a good goal for many looking to be more active.

"Any progress is good progress," she said. "It might not seem like much, but it's super beneficial in the long run … Getting started is just the important thing."

While exercising and getting into shape independently at a senior age is possible, the assistance of trainers like Schleicher can help make these fitness goals even more attainable. As a wellness coordinator who works primarily with seniors, she helps evaluate a person's skill level and needs to develop the best way to start. She hears a lot of folks talk about how they have no idea where to begin — especially with the endless amount of information online. So her job is to take that pressure off her clients.

Every person is different. What works for someone may not work for everyone else. Schleicher is currently working with a woman who recently had two knee replacements, so she's helping her regain strength in her lower muscles with exercises that specifically target that part of the body.

"We can tailor exercise to whatever they want it to look like," she explained. "There's a lot of information out there, so it's nice to have one person you can go to for consistent information."

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Schleicher shows the bicycle machines that sit in front of a TV at the PACC. These are also low-impact and popular with seniors in the community.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Exercise can also look entirely different for a senior in comparison to a youth. Exercises like running or jumping can be difficult on someone with joint problems, as these forms of movement are high-impact. Schleicher also teaches classes that are specifically tailored toward low-impact fitness. Her Silver Sneakers class is taught entirely seated, so a lot of the exercises are done with dumbbells while sitting in chairs — such as bicep curls and resistance bands.

For seniors looking for an advanced level of exercise, the PACC also hosts another class, Silver and Fit. While still low-impact, there are more walking and standing exercises involved.

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Schleicher also believes these courses are good for socializing, so they nourish the brain alongside the body.

"It's pretty easy to get isolated, especially with COVID and everything," she explained. "It's really important to keep a social circle and keep your mind sharp and maintain friendships."

For those who want to get fit outside of classes, the suggested daily walking still works great. The PACC also has low-impact cardio equipment available, such as bicycle machines, for seniors to use. Some come in and use the equipment for about 30 minutes to an hour daily, which is also a great way to maintain fitness, Schleicher said.

"We want to keep our functional abilities as long as we can," Schleicher concluded. "It's never too late to start exercising."

If you're interested in learning more about fitness training, equipment or courses available for seniors at the PACC, you can reach out to Taylin Schleicher at 218-346-9845 or wellness@PerhamAreaCommunityCenter.net. To learn more about the PACC, go to perhamareacommunitycenter.net .

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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