TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The Fit and Fall Proof Program was created in 2004 to help senior citizens remain physically active and keep their muscle strength.
"There are hundreds and hundreds of people who have said, 'If I had not done this program, I would not have been able to do this,'" says Jan Mittleider, co-creator of the Fit and Fall Program. "I have seen people who thought their lives were over, and they were able to reclaim their lives because they got back into a fitness program."
The South Central Public Health District hopes to motivate people to take part in the program, especially during the winter months when falls could lead to more severe injuries for an older person.
"It's more important than ever to keep up strength to be able to catch yourself if you do trip on an icy or slick surface. You know, if something were to happen in your home to be able to have the strength to be able to pull yourself up," explains Adria Masoner, SCPHD's Fit and Fall Proof Coordinator.
The program is year-round, and typically the classes meet two to three times per week in nursing homes, gyms, and other areas where they can participate in recreational activities. Due to the pandemic, classes have not been able to meet since last March, and that's affecting people in the program.
"I was speaking with one of our class leaders from Kimberly yesterday, and she said that she has seen, with some of her participants, she has seen them deteriorate physically over these last nine months," said Masoner.
To help members to keep up with their routines, program coordinators and officials from the health district are encouraging at-home exercises.
"Get up and move for maybe three minutes," says Mittleider. "Stretch, put your hands over the top of your head, stand on one foot, and do some high marches. They don't have to be sexy exercises. They can be very simple yet very effective."
Physical deterioration is not the only problem the program has run into during COVID. A large part of this class is having the ability to socialize with others. Since they have not met, some senior citizens may feel more alone, which could negatively impact their mental health.
Mittleider says it's important to keep up the social aspect of the program as well so members feel less isolated.
"I talk on the phone with my friends or my daughter, and sometimes I get a couple of miles in. Just by walking and talking in my house," Mittleider.
For more information about the program, the South Central Health District has other exercises or workouts people can work on while in isolation on their website.