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New Ulm Medical Center

Helping Seniors EASE Into a Tailored Exercise Routine

When Arn and Ruth Koelpin of New Ulm read in the newspaper that the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – New Ulm (SKRI) was starting new exercise therapy classes for seniors, they rushed to sign up.

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Arn and Ruth Koelpin were the first participants in the EASE (Exercise & Activity for Seniors Education) class through the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – New Ulm. The three-session class is aimed at helping seniors discover what kinds of exercises they can do at home.

“It said the class size was limited so we thought we’d get in early,” recalled Arn, 80, a retired professor of history and religion.

Arn and Ruth, 70, were the first to enroll in EASE (Exercise & Activity for Seniors Education) and they’re glad they did. They took the classes, held over three days in October and have been implementing the exercises they were taught ever since.

“What they showed us was both informative and practical,” said Arn, who tries to squeeze at least 20 minutes of his new exercises in most days.

The classes are more education than exercise, said Mary Bauer, a physical therapist assistant, who leads the classes with Deb Beatty, manager of SKRI. The point is to teach participants what to do and why so that they can go home and implement what they’ve learned, Bauer explained.

Classes are offered at 1:30 p.m. the second and fourth Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each month.

In the first class, participants are taught why it’s important for them to exercise at their age, the types of exercises they should be doing (aerobic, flexibility and strength training) and resources in the community for group exercise. The first class also covers how to monitor your heart rate and other safety points about exercising.

Participants start exercising during the second session. Class size is limited to eight seniors so that the exercises can be individualized to the needs and abilities of each participant, Bauer said. Being able to tailor the exercises is important, she added. “If someone can’t do a stretch one way, we can show them something else. It’s not: ‘Everyone does the same thing.’ ”

In the third session, participants show Bauer what they have learned from the classes and can ask any questions they have. Participants are given lots of written materials so they can learn and practice the exercises on their own.

Ruth, a retired secretary, had been a regular walker before taking the class. Now she’s added some flexibility and strength training to her week because she realizes how important that can be to maintaining her ability to move as she gets older.

She loves that the instructors showed her strengthening and flexibility exercises she can do even before she gets out of bed in the morning.

“I bring my knees up toward my shoulders and I do bicycle kicks,” she said. “These are things I can do while lying down in bed, but I might have more difficulty doing them if I had to lie on the floor.”

Arn said he was happy to show up the teachers when they asked him to get up and down from a chair as many times as he could in two minutes. “It was tiring,” he said, but he doesn’t think they expected him to do so well.

The best part, Ruth added, is that the classes were free. They’re recommending to all their friends that they sign up, too. “We tell them we think it would be well worth their time. It certainly was ours,” Ruth said.

Seniors are encouraged to come to all three sessions, Bauer said. “But don't let a scheduling conflict on one of the days keep you from coming to the others.”

For more information or to register for EASE, call 507-217-5173.