EnhanceFitness helps seniors build strength, stamina and balance

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There are nearly a dozen students gathered in the exercise room at Daniel Fernandez Youth Center in Los Lunas Tuesday morning.

There isn’t an ounce of spandex in sight, no loud music and everyone is equipped with a folding chair.

For most, this might not sound like the picture of a typical fitness class.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Getting back in the swing of things, from left, in front, Diana Leonardo, Sharon Walsh and Mary Worley; in back, from left, Mary Hill, Margaret Padilla, Jim Deal and Catherine Klein work out in their first EnhanceFitness class. The purpose of the class is to help seniors who are frail or have not exercised in a long time build up strength, stamina and balance.

That’s because it isn’t.

EnhanceFitness is a class specifically designed to meet the needs of the mature exerciser, says instructor Fred Laureta.

Known for his high-energy ballroom dance classes and physically challenging yoga and Pilates sessions, Laureta brings his trademark smile and enthusiasm to EnhanceFitness, but there’s a lot less impact — for now anyway.

“We are going to work on your stamina, strength and balance,” Laureta tells his class. “We will do this for 16 weeks and you will see a difference. Maybe after that, you will feel you are ready to do more — maybe one of my tai chi classes.”

For 16 weeks, senior students will attend the free, hour-long class three days a week — 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

And Laureta offers a gentle warning: if you don’t show up, your spot will be given to someone on the waiting list.

“You need to come three days a week. If you are only going to do it one day, why come?” he asked.

“It’s like when I was teaching at UNM and students would only come once a month and were surprised they failed. Besides, this is going to be fun.”

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Full of energy and enthusiasm, fitness instructor Fred Laureta still manages to set a gentle pace as he leads his new EnhanceFitness class.

As Laureta leads the class through a series of low-impact cardio, strength and balance exercises, he talks about the benefits they can expect — weight loss, improved strength and balance, improvement in their overall health, mental wellbeing and memory.

He also lays out two important ground rules — go at your own pace and never do anything that hurts. Those two rules help explain the chairs.

“Your body talks to you; listen to it. If you get tired, sit down. If you start to hurt, sit down,” Laureta says with a big smile. “Try doing the exercise from a seated position. You can do most of them.”

He quickly sits down and demonstrates how to continue marching while seated, pointing out that these exercises can be done at a desk at work or while watching television.

“You can do this when you’re watching TV, right? Say ‘yes,’” he tells the class. Everyone laughs and says “yes.”

Laureta said he was very excited to bring the free class to Valencia County.

The program is funded by the New Mexico Department of Health, the New Mexico Aging and Long Term Services, Sandoval County Senior Services and Senior Olympics.

“This is going to be fun,” he said. “This is just the first hill we’re going to climb. Then we’ll climb Los Lunas hill, Mt. Taylor, Mt. Rainier, then Mt. Everest.”

The students laugh and shake their heads, but somehow, you know Laureta will get them to the peak of something.

He encourages them to set goals and keep track of their progress over the 16 weeks, but not to be too obsessive.

He advised them to get a good scale and weigh themselves, and measure their biceps, waists, thighs and hips.

“Write that down, but only do it once a month,” Laureta said. “You will see the outcome, the results, but don’t weigh yourself everyday.

“And ladies, you will see a change in dress size before you see weight loss. Keep going.”

Mary Hill, of Los Lunas, says she is definitely going to keep going. She said she was looking for a way to get back into exercising, and Laureta’s class seemed like a good start.

“It’s only for an hour and it’s certainly not going to hurt you,” Hill said. “You do this at your own pace and it’s something anybody can do. I think it’s something everybody should do.”

Jim Deal said Hill was the one who “dragged” him to the EnhanceFitness class.

“But balance is my problem,” Deal said. “I think these exercises will help that.”

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Teddy Saenz said she wanted a way to stay mobile and stable.

“I’ve taken Fred’s classes before. I think this will be very beneficial,” said Saenz, a Los Lunas resident.

“I think it would be beneficial to people who aren’t mobile at all.”

As the class winds down, Laureta takes his students through a cool down phase of slow, gentle movements and deep breathing.

“I’m from the Philippines, and we believe that everyone is born with a certain number of breaths,” said the 70-year-old instructor. “So if you breath slow and deep, you will live longer.”.

For information on the EnhanceFitness program, call Fred Laureta at 966-6027.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.