Instructor Melinda Coscarelli Lutes leads students Helen Flattum, left, and Doris Dybing in stretching exercise at an exercise class geared towards seniors and those with arthritis at Coffee Street Commons in Lanesboro. Sandy Tammel, not shown, also teaches in Lanesboro, as well as in Harmony.
Instructor Melinda Coscarelli Lutes leads students Helen Flattum, left, and Doris Dybing in stretching exercise at an exercise class geared towards seniors and those with arthritis at Coffee Street Commons in Lanesboro. Sandy Tammel, not shown, also teaches in Lanesboro, as well as in Harmony.
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When people suffer from the aches and pain of arthritis, fibromyalgia and other such ailments, or if they’re worried about their balance and concerned about falling, the easiest thing might be to refrain from physical activity. They think that by making fewer movements and resting, they’re doing themselves a world of good.

However, in most cases that is exactly the opposite of the truth. Stretching, moving and getting out will in fact serve to help a person move more readily. But, of course, one should ease into it with an exercise program created for that purpose. Then the results of simple exercises can almost be amazing.

Helen Flattum and Doris Dybing – each 87 years old and from Lanesboro – agreed with that feeling after taking a Monday class at Coffee Street Fitness taught by Melinda Coscarelli Lutes. The class is an Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP), sponsored by the Southeast Minnesota Area Agency on Aging in Rochester.

Both women noted how they now walk much better after starting the twice-a-week sessions last year. In fact, after her second hip replacement, Flattum said she’d had both knees replaced due to arthritis; even needing to have her right one replaced a second time after breaking her femur.

“My doctor never thought I would walk again. I thought I better make sure I do this when it (these classes) started,” she stated. Her doctor now credits her progress in a large part to this exercise program.

The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP) and other classes also sponsored by the Southeast Minnesota Area Agency on Aging are currently held in the area communities of Harmony, Mabel and Lanesboro.

A future class may be held in Spring Grove, according to Lynn Sollien, Senior Dining site manager and class instructor at Mabel. She explained training specific to each class is offered.

Sollien was initially trained to teach a Balance and Movement class, which required having a second person trained to assist. That class ran for an hour and included education about the topic, refreshers on what was learned each week and a break for snacks.

The AFEP has a more traditional schedule, offered twice a week. Sessions are kept short. They typically last from half an hour to 45 minutes. Attendees will stand by chairs and use them as needed for balance, and for seated exercises, including those with light hand weights. They can do an easier variation if an exercise looks or proves to be too hard. Breaks can be taken as needed.

Dybing said getting together with other seniors provides motivation to exercise. “You think about doing it at home but we come here. We like the company. I worked hard at home today (getting ready for company), so I wouldn’t have needed to come. But I’m here,” she said. “You’ll end up using (muscles and the like) you didn’t know you had. I walk better now.”

Instructor Sandy Tammel said she became a personal trainer because of her work with Coscarelli Lutes. She had arthritis, fibromyalgia and was overweight. She found exercise helped her in many ways, in addition to losing 60 pounds.

Getting a person’s brain functioning better is one of the surprising effects documented as a benefit of exercise.

“Now I’m paying it forward,” Tammel said. “I knew I had to get involved and help others like I was helped.”

Classes

The exercise classes are given with a free-will offering of $2 a session suggested, but not required. A person does not need to be over 60 or 65 to take AFEP. Tammel suggested wearing loose fitting, comfortable clothes and good casual or exercise shoes.

In Lanesboro, fitness trainers Coscarelli Lutes and Tammel offer class Mondays and Wednesdays, beginning at 3 p.m. and lasting from a half hour to around 40 minutes at Coffee Street Fitness. You can just show up and register, or call Tammel at (507) 272-3731.

In Harmony, Tammel holds AFEP at the Harmony Community Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Registration information is the same as for Lanesboro.

In Mabel, Sollien offers the class on Mondays and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11 a.m., immediately before preparing meals for delivery and serving at the Senior Meal Dining Site/Mabel Fire Hall, 325 West Prairie Avenue. After getting requests from people who couldn’t attend at those times, Sollien is voluntarily holding a third class each Thursday from 3 to around 3:30. If intending to eat lunch at the site after class, call Sollien the night before at (507) 459-9356 to let her know. Otherwise just show up at class to register and exercise.