It’s noon on a Wednesday and more than 40 people have gathered at the new Community Life Center for a special Enhance Fitness class led by one of the Salem YMCA’s health and wellness instructors.

Vella has been going to Enhance Fitness since June of 2016. She says, “This exercise class will always be a part of my life.” According to Vella, the class has greatly improved her core strength and is the reason she has been able to transition from a walker to a cane. At times, she can even walk short distances within a room without assistance.

Exercise has countless benefits for every age; it can give you a healthier heart, stronger bones and improve your flexibility and balance. This is so important, especially for seniors. Research shows that regular exercise reduces the risk of chronic diseases, lowers the chance of injury and can even improve one’s mood. As we age, our muscle mass begins to decrease. When we enter our 40s, adults can lose 3% to 5% of muscle mass with each subsequent decade of life. Muscle is an essential contributor to our balance and bone strength; it keeps us strong. Without it, our mobility and independence become compromised.

Exercise is also key for cognitive function. Scientists have found that brain neurons, the special cells that perform all the necessary functions to keep you alive as well as help you think and improve your memory, all increase after a few weeks of regular exercise. In fact, some researchers found that when individuals walk three or more times a week, the occurrence of dementia was 35% lower than those seniors who were not involved in any type of physical activity.

The Salem YMCA provides community-based exercise programs that help people stay socially connected and provide a safe, supportive and interactive environment to build and maintain relationships, physical and mental well-being and self-confidence. Both the YMCA and the Community Life Center are centrally located in downtown Salem for easy access to Salem residents. Core to the Y’s mission is to provide easy access to supportive and engaging classes that help foster and encourage social connection and physical activity.

With more than 70 classes per week to choose from, there is a class and program for everyone and every level of physical ability. In particular, the aquatic programs provide a unique opportunity for those with weight-bearing restrictions to stretch, get cardiovascular exercise, and gain strength through resistance training. Water-based exercises offer additional benefits for balance, coordination, and mobility. Newly added chair yoga and tai chi give participants the opportunity to take a gradual approach to their health through mindfulness, guided breathing and meditation.

As a partner with Salem for All Ages, our Y recognizes and values the importance of serving all in our community and ensuring that everyone has access to these programs. Through this partnership we provide our Enhance Fitness program three times a week at the Community Life Center at no cost to the city or participant.

Everyone belongs at the Y, regardless of their ability to pay. We are committed to ensuring every community member has access to our Ys. Financial scholarships are available.

You already belong, you just need to join.

Charity Lezama is executive director of the Salem YMCA and a member of the Salem for All Ages Task Force.

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