Growing up in southeast Georgia, Bradford Bailey learned to respect his elders. His mother was a social worker, and he says she taught him to look up to senior citizens as she worked with them in their small, rural community.
When Bailey moved to metro Atlanta in 2006, freshly minted exercise physiology diploma in hand, he was surprised to find few exercise classes were offered that had been designed specifically for older participants. So he started his own program. Now his company, SeniorFitAtlanta, works in 25 to 30 senior facilities spread from Forsyth County to Palmetto to Stone Mountain, he said.
One recent afternoon, the 41-year-old Bailey worked with 13 clients in a senior living community in Brookhaven. He led the group of seniors as they worked through a series of exercises designed to exercise different muscle groups and to make them stronger.
“That’s our main concept,” Bailey said before class began. “We work on strengthening exercises. Out of all the components of fitness, that’s the one seniors benefit most from.”
Strengthening exercises help improve his clients’ muscle mass and increase bone density, he said. That, in turn, helps improve their quality of life, and helps protect them against disease and injuries in falls. If seniors are physically strong, Bailey explained, they are able to live more independent and productive lives.
He also promotes exercise as a “magical pill” against illness. “Regular exercise and physical activity can help prevent and treat all of the common deadly diseases,” he wrote recently. “For example, a 30-minute session of exercise helps to lower blood pressure, reduce blood sugar and strengthen your heart and lungs. … No population benefits more from exercise than the senior population.”
Bailey’s classes last about 30 minutes apiece and he uses weights, rubber balls, resistance bands and other devices in his workouts. He tells his clients that the best exercise for their cardiovascular systems is simply to take regular walks. “I just ask residents to walk as much as they can,” he said. “If they can’t, they can wheel in their wheelchairs.”
His clients seem to enjoy their regular workouts. “Exercise gets the muscles going,” said Art Mongagne, who’s 95. “You’ve got to do that to keep going. If you don’t keep going, you stop. It keeps all your muscles and your body feeling active. Consequently, you feel good.”
Bailey regularly works with clients aged 85 to older than 100, he said. “The lady I just left was 93,” he said. “Eighty percent of our clients are in the 90s.”
He also is working on a line of video and on-line classes. “My ultimate goal,” Bailey said, “is to make professional fitness training available to all seniors.”
Visit SeniorFitAtlanta.com to learn more, or call Bradford Bailey, BSEP, CSCS, HFI at 404-909-6872.