Fresh Faves for Feeling Fit Fanatics

It’s a wrap for the latest tapings of the Feeling Fit Club show and devotees of the program couldn’t be happier. For the uninitiated, the television program is an extension of the free Feeling Fit Club exercise classes offered by the County’s Aging and Independence Services (AIS).

The five 1-hour long programs air on the County Television Network (CTN) and allow seniors who can’t get out to an actual class to do their workouts at home. The exercises focus on how to gain better balance, better flexibility and greater muscle strength to improve their quality of life.

For the older adults who take part in them, they’re life-changers.

“We’ve had testimonials from people who are able to put deodorant on again, who can comb their own hair, who can get to a zipper better because they can move that shoulder better and have upper body flexibility,” said exercise physiologist Gretchen Vurbeff.

One woman lost over 100 pounds taking part in the Feeling Fit Club. “She came in with a walker, she moved to a cane, she moved to no cane, she moved to the walking program at the Escondido mall, she was able to go to Zion and Bryce (canyons) with her family and do some hiking,” said Vurbeff.

The certified mobility specialist is a familiar face to long-term viewers of the TV program. She leads the exercises. Fellow teachers Char Schade and the irrepressible Vicki Velasco are back too.

She took part in the first Feeling Fit Club TV series shot back in 2001. At the time, she was a manager at Aging and Independence Services. Velasco retired in 2003 and is now 73 years old but she is still going strong. She teaches classes at four sites in the South County, one of them in Spanish. While a number of participants are quite disabled, she says they still come to do what they can.

Velasco has lung disease but the exercises have allowed her to build the muscles around her lungs and help her breathing. Through regular exercise, Velasco has also lost two pant sizes.

Velasco says exercise is the one thing you have to do for yourself; no one else can do it for you. “You will feel better, and sleep better and digest your food better and be more regular. You will have a better mood, have more strength to do things, you will be able to go up those steps!” said Velasco. “…It’s all positive!” 

The new workouts in the TV series incorporate different warm-up routines and more range-of-motion exercises to help older adults safely and effectively work their muscles. The goal is the same; practical exercises that allow them to carry out the tasks that most take for granted. Some examples involve getting up from a chair, lifting laundry and grocery bags or looking over your shoulder while driving to make sure you can safely change lanes.

Vurbeff says another problem as we age, is foot clearance. We don’t raise our feet like we should over throw rugs, clutter on the floor or for stairs. That in turn leads to falls. In fact, the number one place for falls is in the home. “If you come to a pothole or a crack in the sidewalk or you have to take a step unexpectedly, if you never train yourself to do that (foot clearance), that’s when a fall will take place,” said Vurbeff.  The new routines allow participants to practice gait patterns and as a result, they gain confidence and may get out more.

The Feeling Fit Club show is one of the most popular programs on CTN. Phones ring off the hook whenever they’re pre-empted. Some viewers want the luxury of getting their workouts whenever they want. AIS sends out free DVD sets along with a stretch band to County residents. While only the current series is available now, the new one is scheduled to go on the air in late spring or early summer. Viewers can get a set by calling (858) 495-5500 or the AIS call center at (800) 510-2020. If you’d like to attend classes, visit the website for locations.   

As Velasco says “You’re the boss of your body and if your muscles are all flabby, they will tune up.”  Not only that, but you’ll have a good time too.

“I’ve always felt that this program should be fun, said Velasco. “That’s why we call it the Feeling Fit Club so that people feel a friendship and camaraderie.”

Want to join the club?