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Elder fitness program gets results

Nicole Sisk, 96th Medical Group clinical health promotion coordinator, helps Frank Acosta with his tricep extension during an exercise session Feb. 4 in Building 720 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Go4Life is an eight-week program that builds strength, balance and flexibility. The program also encourages sedentary, older adults to make health improvements by making physical activity a part of their daily routine. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

Nicole Sisk, 96th Medical Group clinical health promotion coordinator, helps Frank Acosta with his tricep extension during an exercise session Feb. 4 in Building 720 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Go4Life is an eight-week program that builds strength, balance and flexibility. The program also encourages sedentary, older adults to make health improvements by making physical activity a part of their daily routine. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

Nicole Sisk, 96th Medical Group clinical health promotion coordinator, helps Frank Acosta with his tricep extension during an exercise session Feb. 4 in Building 720 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Go4Life is an eight-week program that builds strength, balance and flexibility. The program also encourages sedentary, older adults to make health improvements by making physical activity a part of their daily routine. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

Nicole Sisk, 96th Medical Group clinical health promotion coordinator, helps Frank Acosta with his tricep extension during an exercise session Feb. 4 in Building 720 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Go4Life is an eight-week program that builds strength, balance and flexibility. The program also encourages sedentary, older adults to make health improvements by making physical activity a part of their daily routine. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Since January 2015, the Go4Life fitness program has helped its participants at Eglin AFB improve mobility, flexibility, and strength. The eight week program is aimed at individuals 50 years old and over, who want to improve their functional fitness.

The classes focus on flexibility, balance, and muscle strength to help participants complete everyday tasks. The Health Promotion Flight has helped expand and teach Go4Life for 12 sessions of participants since the program began.

"This is the only class I teach where students ask 'can it go longer?'" said Alison DeCaro, 96th Medical Group health promotion coordinator. "Many people who finish the class have gone on to form their own group to continue their fitness routine, so I know it's working."

DeCaro emphasized the goal of the program is to improve quality of life, but many of her students see additional benefits.

"This isn't about weight loss, although that does happen for some of the participants," said DeCaro. "It is primarily to help them do the little things most people take for granted, like getting out of a seat more easily or full range of motion for their neck."

The most recent session began February 2, with a morning and afternoon class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students go through an initial assessment to give them a baseline for improvement. Each session is made up of exercises such as shoulder press with three to five-pound weights, low-row pulls using resistance bands, and angled wall push-ups. Different exercises are added and repetitions, weight, and intensity increases over the weeks. At the end, students complete a final assessment to compare results with the initial test to see their improvement.

Carol Elder, a 96th Communications Squadron software engineer, completed the Go4Life program in June 2015. When she started the program, simple movements such as lifting her legs would cause some back pain after only a few repetitions.

"I took it easy, as Alison instructed, and only did what I felt comfortable doing," said Elder. "[Recently], I climbed to the top of two lighthouses in one day. My knees and back were fine after both climbs, and even after a full day of walking that same day."

Elder maintained her fitness routine with the assistance and support of other Go4Life graduates. She meets with other graduates twice a week. Each group member completes one weekend workout as well. One of the continuing group members, Robin Enos, completed her Go4Life session with Elder. Her initial concerns were core strength and stability, but Enos was also preparing for a total knee replacement.

"From June to December, I strengthened my body and improved my balance. In December, I had the [surgery]," said Enos. "My quick and successful recovery amazed the doctors. I was walking within two weeks and returned to the gym group within six weeks. My doctor and I attribute my fast healing to how fit my body was before surgery."

DeCaro noted that while Elder's results have been exceptional, most of her students see a significant improvement. Potential students must have a referral from their TriCare physician or a waiver from an off base provider stating they are fit enough to participate. The next session will start in late March with exact dates to be announced. Class size is limited, so contact your physician early if interested.