The road to getting fit

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Perhaps the most common and also most abused New Year’s resolution is “get fit.” Health clubs see a burst of new memberships at the start of every year only to find people slacking off after just a few months. Yet, we all know that fitness exercise has multiple benefits. In addition to health benefits, exercise can make you happier, smarter and now, a better driver, too.
A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute for Technology Age Lab found that when older drivers exercise and their bodies are more flexible, they are better able to see and react to other drivers. The American Automobile Association even has a brochure on flexibility fitness exercises for drivers.
Physical activity can mean mental fitness, too. Recognizing the link between exercise and mental health, Montgomery County is planning to expand recreation programs for older adults. Right now, the most popular activity for older residents of Montgomery County is aquatics according to recreation department director Gabriel Albornoz.  You’ll see them taking up the swim lanes at the county’s four indoor aquatics centers every day of the year.
Other swimming facilities, such as the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville, also have heightened use by older swimmers. The JCC’s mid-day Masters Swim class fills the pool’s six lanes to capacity with swimmers speeding along three times a week. Aerobics classes, Zumba, Tai-Chi and strengthening classes are also popular. The JCC has a new class called “Women with Weights” for exercises with free weights.
With or without personal trainers, classes or swimming, it is becoming easier to find a way to exercise. County facilities and the JCC or YMCA are less expensive than health clubs. The county’s “Silver Sneaker” program for those 55+ costs $50 a year for use of exercise equipment at community centers on weekdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. At the JCC and most county facilities today, trainers are experienced with the needs of older participants. Another advantage is that there’s no sports-chic code; you can wear any ordinary T-shirts or sweatpants you might have.
Indoor facilities are especially helpful to exercisers in the winter and inclement weather. You can walk indoors at the county’s 15 community centers and early morning at several malls. Walking year-round outdoors or indoors wherever you live is probably the simplest and most economical way to exercise.
If you need a change from walking around your neighborhood, try the towpath on the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park or trails in one of the county’s parks including Cabin John, Wheaton Regional Parks and Brookside Gardens. The Web site www.montgomeryparks.org has a park and trail directory.
For information on county recreation facilities and programs, go online to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/rectmpl.asp or call 311. Information about fitness and aquatics programs at the JCCGW, located at 6125 Montrose Road, is online at www.jccgw.org or by calling 301-881-0100.
Maybe this year is a good time to try again and find time to get some fitness exercise. n
Judith Welles, a local writer, formerly chaired the Montgomery County Commission on Aging.

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