May 25 is National Senior Health and Fitness Day! Organizations across the country are promoting “Exercise Your Way to a Better Day”.

Can exercise really help you have a better day? Think of a time when you felt down, low on energy, overly stressed, or maybe even bored. Going out for a walk, a run, or even a simple walk around the house a few times can help you feel better. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with receptors in your brain that reduce the perception of pain. This means that those endorphins released by movement trigger a positive feeling in the body, which will make you feel better.

Seniors benefit in many ways from physical activity. These benefits include: reduced risk of falling; increased ability to live independently, maintain strength and healthy joints/muscles; help reduce/control blood pressure and strengthen the heart; reduced the risk of colon cancer, diabetes and swelling of arthritic joints; alleviates symptoms of stress/anxiety; and community and camaraderie when done in groups. These are just a few of the benefits of being active.

There are many ways to get active with participating organizations or have fun celebrating National Seniors Health and Fitness Day. Many activities can be modified to accommodate any limitation. Here are some ideas to help you get moving:

• Go to the park — Parks and recreation services provide seniors with the perfect opportunity to get out into nature. There are many amazing parks and walking trails right here in Jefferson City, such as the Katy Trail; Runge Nature Center; the greenway; or McKay, Riverside, Memorial or Binder Lake parks.

• Attending a fitness class or gymnasium — What could be more appropriate to spend National Seniors Health and Fitness Day than by attending a fitness class or gymnasium with other seniors? Having an instructor to help demonstrate proper technique to prevent injury will make you more comfortable. Doing this with a large group of people increases motivation and energy.

• Garden work – Gardening is a hobby that promotes both health and fitness. Plant a garden bed or pot filled with fresh produce/herbs. Take your gardening a step further with a personal or grocer’s-bought harvest, and prepare a meal with fresh produce packed with plenty of nutrients to nourish the body. It will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

• Dance — Groove and dance to the music. Whether you’re signed up for a Zumba class or from the comfort of your own kitchen, the possibilities for dancing are endless because it can be done just about anywhere. Get a beat, grab a friend and dance the night away.

• Schedule a health check — In addition to being active, be proactive about health. Scheduling a health check keeps seniors informed about their own health and provides an opportunity to take preventive measures or actions, which may also depend on physical findings and discussions held with a medical professional.

National Senior Health and Fitness Day is only a week away! The Sam B. Cook Healthplex Fitness Center celebrates with an open house from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 25. We provide a safe and friendly environment for everyone who comes. Our walking track, cardio zone, strength machines/free weights and group fitness classes are specially designed to accommodate those with different areas of experience. We pride ourselves on providing you with professional staff who will help you exercise for a better day and better health.

Kay Benward is an exercise specialist and supervisor at Sam B. Cook Healthplex Fitness Center. She has worked at Capital Region Medical Center for 30 years and has inspired many people to lead healthy lives through exercise. She continues to teach classes and enjoys training the mature adult in balance, posture, and functional strength, as well as educating her clients, staff, and community about exercise as medicine.