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Healthy choices for an Active Life

Many struggle to keep New Year’s resolutions, but regulars at LaGrange Active Life said the classes and community have helped them make healthy choices for years. 

The LaGrange Active Life is a recreational facility for adults older than 55 years old, and it provides plenty of workout options to help locals stay in shape. 

Celeste Garrett, the wellness coordinator for Troup County Active Life, likes to emphasize the roles of healthy eating and regular exercise when talking to residents. Her 90-day challenge class helps seniors learn how to manage chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease by making healthy choices.

“We know that 65 percent of our population have a chronic disease or a borderline chronic disease, so our goal is to get them healthier through eating and exercise,” Garrett said. “It is a proven fact that healthier eating and exercise will number one improve your health, and number two it helps you in the aging process. You don’t age as quickly. That is why we offer all these things, so we can encourage them to do their exercise. The healthy lifestyle nutrition program is helping them make better choices on what they eat.”

Garrett said that part of what she does is help seniors understand what they are supposed to do with the sometimes-overwhelming amount of information that they receive from their doctors. The programs are voluntary, but some participants said they have seen a major impact on their health.

Nancy Perdue, a member of Active Life, said since she’s been working with Celeste her blood pressure has come way down. She isn’t currently taking any medication.

“She put me on a healthy living plan, and I had to start leaving off fried foods and salt,” Perdue said. “I ate a lot of dark greens and a lot of orange stuff like sweet potatoes and carrots. For the last three weeks today, it is 117 over 71, and it has been running this now for quite some time. This is with no medication, just healthy living, healthy eating.”

Perdue said she also enjoys regular tai chi classes at the center, but due to the wide variety of classes offered, other participants have been able to try different things to see what works for them.

“I had put a lot of weight on, and I’ve tried a lot of the different exercise programs through those three years that I’ve been here, but what I’ve found helps me the most is I use the recumbent bike in the exercise room,” said Cindy Estes, a member of Active Life. “I have a bad back, and I need to get my body moving. That doesn’t hurt my back. I can sit there and ride that bicycle for 30 minutes.”

With options like pickleball, line dancing, aerobics and hydrorobics, many seniors at Active Life participate in more than one activity in order to mix up their exercise and spend time with friends.

“This past fall, we started a chair volleyball [league],” Estes said. “When I was younger, I played volleyball, but I can’t do that now with my back. In chair volleyball, the main rule is that your fanny cannot leave the chair.”

Regular attendees said that they felt a sense of community at the center.

“Active Life to me is like coming home to family,” said Martha Johnson, an Active Life member. “I started out with chair aerobics when I used to work. Then I advanced to the machines, and then I advanced to the line dancing. I do about five classes a week of line dancing, but you need it all, not just one thing. It makes you feel better, helps you get around better.”

Garrett’s 90-day program aims to supplement those exercise efforts by explaining what seniors should look for in their diets.

“I had gained a lot of weight, and with her plan of eating and exercising, I’ve been able to lose 65 pounds,” Perdue said. “I feel wonderful.”

Perdue said that she had joined 90-day challenge, and while Garrett discourages overly swift weight loss, Perdue said that she was thrilled with the results. She wasn’t the only one either.

“I’m a borderline diabetic, and it helped me to learn how to eat correctly,” Estes said. “I thought I knew how, but as I was struggling with it more and more, [the 90-day challenge] really helped me to do a better job of eating correctly.”

As a packed chair aerobics class filed into the entry way last week, Johnson said that participating in the activities has given her more energy to do other things in her daily life.

“I feel great,” Johnson said. “When I leave here, I go home, and I go 90 miles per hour until night most of the time. It just lifts you up. If you are sad, if you are in a bad mood, when I leave here, I’m in a good mood then because the exercising helps you with getting up and down. I don’t have as much arthritis pain. It helps with everything.”