Just Keep Moving! La Jolla Community Center workshop reveals effects of aging and how to reverse them

It’s a fact of life: We must all face the effects of aging, just as our parents did. But to make the process a bit easier, “Walking in Your Parents’ Shoes: An Interactive Workshop” was held Aug. 29 at the La Jolla Community Center to give participants a chance to feel the effects of aging firsthand — and to provide a hopeful look at reversing them.

The workshop was sponsored by Monarch Cottage, a senior living community being built at 7630 Fay Ave., and its partner, Reneu Health. The event featured various “stations” where participants could use weighted balls, rubber bands and weights to experience what happens to the body as it grows older.

“We’re here tonight to show you what it might feel like if you were in a situation with ailments commonly associated with aging,” began Roya Corpuz, Reneu’s education director and vice-president.

Reneu Health is comprised of kinesthesiologists who specialize in movement and prescribe exercise to make positive changes to the body.

Corpuz went on to explain that most ailments associated with aging are really caused by inactivity. “Kinesiology is the science of how your body moves in general,” she said. “Most people we see have complaints that are due to inactivity, rather than the effects of aging.”

Corpuz pointed out that as we age, we enter into a cycle of decline due to old injuries we may have that cause pain, and subsequently cause us to stop using those muscles in order to avoid the pain. That leads to muscle deterioration and loss of strength.

“But that doesn’t have to be the case,” she went on to say. “We are, in some ways, in charge of aging, and we can change its course. What it takes to break the cycle is exercise. We decline quickly, but you can also turn it around quickly.”

A Reneu Health staffer shows Mari Perez how to raise a weight for improved posture (Jeanne Rawdin)

Stand up straight!

She demonstrated that posture is usually the first to go. Using a rubber ball raised directly above her head, she exemplified good posture and spine alignment. Then she demonstrated what happens when the body compensates for weak muscles and inactivity by holding the ball at a 45-degree angle. “The body then leans forward and hunches over, causing strain on the back. This leads to decreased strength and mobility, and eventually an impaired gait, or feet shuffling, which brings with it an increased risk of falling,” she concluded.

To bring the point home, participants were given a weighted ball, some weights and rubber bands to use to simulate the cycle of decline. Holding the ball or weights out in front of them, they experienced how their head fell forward, and their back felt strained. Next, they tied the rubber bands around their ankles to see what it feels like to lose one’s walking stride from less muscle and bone density. Their shoulders became rounded and their step height became difficult.

Demonstrating an example of perfect posture by way of a weighted ball. (Jeanne Rawdin)

Keep moving

“Getting old is not for wimps,” commented attendee Allison Bechill. “But the great message tonight is what you can do to reverse things. You think so often, ‘this is just what happens. This is just my body breaking down and it’s something I have to live with.’ But having proactive things you can do — not only for your mental health but for your physical health — that’s a great takeaway.”

Patricia Benish, who heads 7Memories, a company that helps seniors write books to turn their recollections into memoirs, said she found the experience to be eye-opening. “I came tonight to educate myself on these issues because I work with populations who are getting older. And while we do emphasize memory and memory loss, we also talk about movement and how important it is to the brain. Just like we have brain generation, we can generate our muscles and all of that to get better posture and better movement.”

Benish said she had a renewed sense of motivation for her older “authors” after the workshop. “Tonight, we talked a lot about movement in terms of gait and strength and posture. After tonight, I’m going to go out and buy a rubber band and some light weights. I really need to do that.”

About 40 people attended the event, and most left with a strong sense of what it takes to reverse the aging process. The message was simple: Stand up straight, stay active, exercise, and keep using the muscles that build the bones — even when it might hurt a little.