The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Brianna Wray
the Times 

Fun ways to keep the blood flowing for cardiovascular health

Focus on Aging & Longevity


August 15, 2019

Brianna Wray

Susan Bauer teaches H.E.A.R.T., or High Energy Aerobics and Resistance Training, as well as slower, more alignment-focused aquatic classes for swimmers of every level. Classes are designed to engage the whole body, including the hands, and end with breathing exercises.

When asked her best advice on aging and longevity, my mom said she doesn't recommend it at all. She went on to say that it isn't pretty, which makes sense because no one gets out of here alive. There are, however, some habits that can slow the effects of aging.

No one will be surprised by the repeated results of scientific study after study. We all know that caloric restriction and exercise are the best allies in the war on premature aging.

Not all aging factors are in our control. Some traits are inherited, but some heart disease risk factors we can control are high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, and smoking.

As you age and sink into inactivity, the muscle in the heart's left ventricle-a chamber that pumps oxygen-rich blood back out to the body-becomes stiffer.

"This change in the heart muscle, coupled with simultaneous stiffening of the body's arteries that leads to high blood pressure, begins a harmful cardiovascular aging cycle," says Dr. Aaron Baggish, director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "Without intervention, this sets the stage for heart failure later in life."

How does exercise help an aging heart? Exertion from exercise forces your heart to pump more blood around your body to your muscles and lungs. The entire process relaxes blood vessels over time and makes your heart run more efficiently, both of which keep blood pressure low.

No matter what state it is in, your circulatory system can benefit from engaging in just a few minutes of exercise each day. But what kind?

"Your heart doesn't know the difference between a brisk walk and an elliptical trainer," says Dr. Baggish, "the goal, then, is to do some kind of cardiovascular exercise-anything that gets your heart pumping and makes you sweat."

Stay Active and Independent for Life, or SAIL, is a Washington state initiative for adults 65 and older including a strength, balance and fitness program. It began as a Senior Falls Prevention Study in which 453 seniors across two Washington counties adhered to a 12-month program including risk assessment by a registered nurse, falls prevention education and a group exercise class that focused on aerobics, balance, strength training and flexibility.

Through its evolution researchers found that seniors respond less positively to "fall prevention" terminology and more to continuing independence in short spurts of time.

Columbia County Health System has partnered with Aging and Long-Term Care to provide the SAIL Exercise Program at the Dayton Senior Center. Classes are currently held every Thursday at the Senior Center from 10:15-11:15 a.m. Beginning in September classes will be held bi-weekly on both Tuesdays and Thursdays, at the same time.

"The class includes a warm-up, stretching, strength training with free weights and resistance bands, some aerobics, balance exercises, and then a cool down with some breathing and stretching exercises. All of the exercises can be adapted for a participant to do from a chair or while standing, depending on their preference," said CCHS Chief Nursing Officer Stephanie Carpenter.

The class is free and anyone age 65 and older is encouraged to attend.

To become a SAIL program leader via a ten-week online course, one must register through Pierce College. Their sessions run on a quarter system following their regular academic calendar. The alternative is to attend a live, sponsored class. The next available training workshop will be taught by master trainer, Sandy Gatlin on Friday, August 23 in Silverdale, Washington. The cost to attend is $125.

Followers of the SAIL program have access to the Blue Information Guide, which is a free resource for building an exercise program as it relates to personal health issues.

The emphasis on low impact exercises is the key to preventing new injuries or triggering old ones. Replace jogging with rebounding and add yoga to your practice.


What type of scene do you envision at the idea of yoga? A group environment with a serene-voiced leader directing the class through gentle stretches and calming poses, or a sweat-drenched show of stamina?

For those who think of yoga as little more than a means of loosening weary muscles, you might consider yoga for cardio a bit of a stretch-pun intended. While any movement is always better than none, some provide more cardiovascular benefit over others.

There are eight popular styles of yoga; vinyasa, ashtanga, iyengar, bikram, jivamukti, sivananda, yin, and power yoga. Vinyasa, or vinyasa flow focuses on a changing lineup of fluid movements as paired with synchronized breathing, sometimes with music. Ashtanga yoga is similar, but more traditional. There are asanas or poses are fixed and the practice is done in silence.

Iyengar yoga focuses on alignment and introduces the use of tools such as bolsters, blankets, blocks and straps. This is an excellent choice for introductory yogis because classes are taught without music and at a slower pace, favoring quality of asanas achieved over quantity.

Bikram yoga practices are comprised of a consistent twenty-six postures and two breathing exercises, in a room at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity. Jivamukti incorporates chanting. Sivananda yoga takes on a holistic approach, by including breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise and positive thinking. Yin yoga, complementary of the other styles, is not meant to involve strength training at all, in favor of the lengthening of connective tissue.

Power yoga, which is inclusive of Ashtanga poses, but performs them more quickly and with added core work and upper body strengthening exercises.

Of the eight, vinyasa and power yoga are two most likely to affect the most positive change on the cardiovascular system the soonest.

Because yoga is less strenuous than many other types of exercise and is easy to modify, it's perfect for people who might be recovering from injury. Whether you practice yoga alone or in a class setting, doing it in conjunction with other forms of exercise works as a warm up, cool down, or both.


Mini-trampoline rebounding exercises have gone in and out of vogue, but the benefits are enduring. In a National Institutes of Health study from 2016, subjects who engaged in a twelve week rebounding program saw positive results. Significant improvements were observed in circumferences, fat mass, lean and muscular mass.

The group concluded that rebounding appears feasible to ensure positive effects on overall health. It's low impact, and therefore kind to connective tissue.

The hardest part of this, or any, exercise is getting started. The most surprising finding is that after 45 minutes, rebounding is still fun.


Susan Bauer, retired middle school teacher, has been teaching cycling at the Walla Walla YMCA for over twenty years, but didn't begin teaching aquatic fitness until recently.

"I was asked to sub and then it stuck. Now I get all these great testimonials from students who say their hips are healing faster," Bauer said.

Aquatic exercise offers a wider range of motion and relieves the majority of pressure on joints from body weight.

Brianna Wray

Cindy Locati enjoys the range of motion available to work in the DEEP classes at the Y in Walla Walla.

"People always ask me what's the best exercise," says Bauer who responds with, "the one you like. If you don't like riding a bike, cycling isn't for you. If you like it, you're more likely to do it. For me, I hate treadmills. I can do it, but I'm checking the time and it's not fun."

Find something fun and do it while you can. Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked at least annually. Your heart, like any other muscle, can weaken over time, especially if you are sedentary. So, as my mom says, "move it, or lose it."



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