Technology helps adults 40 and older get into shape | News


COLUMBIA – In an effort to get into better shape, Charisse Smith has tried seemingly everything. Nothing ever stuck until she started training at the Exercise Coach.

“When I saw this, and it being-tech based, I was immediately interested,” Smith said. “What I do for a living is tech-based, so it’s just very me.”

The Exercise Coach is a personal training gym that uses robotic equipment for strength training in adults. The gym has locations across the country, and recently opened one in Columbia.

Harvard research shows about a quarter of American adults say they devote none of their free time to physical activity. But the Exercise Coach is trying to change that, by catering to adults ages 40 and older.

“We do that for a reason,” said owner Jeff Walker. “We do that because they often feel uncomfortable going to your big box gyms. They often feel uncomfortable just not knowing where to start.”

Smith said she tends to feel this way when she goes to a gym by herself. 

“I have to remember what weight to put on, where to set the bench, and then I wonder, ‘Am I even doing this right?’” she said.

The biggest hurdle many adults face to being physically active is starting. 

“What I’ve seen with most people I work with, is they don’t know how to do it. They don’t know how to get themselves started,” said Jill Kanaley, a nutrition and exercise physiology professor at MU. 

Similar to the CDC’s recommendation of two days of strength training for older adults, the Exercise Coach markets two 20-minute sessions per week for its clients.

“That’s a really good encouragement for a lot of people. It’s only 20 minutes,” Walker said. “It’s a pretty intense 20 minutes, but if they just get themselves here.”

Walker said the bi-weekly workouts are a great addition to other activities clients take part in on a regular basis. 

“I do encourage people, if they walk, continue to walk. If they like playing pickleball, to continue playing pickleball,” he said. 

The Exercise Coach equipment uses technology that tracks clients’ strength and progress over the course of their sessions. 

“We’re able to compare every single time how you did to your prior exercises,” Walker said. “It’s easy to see when you’re not meeting the goal of where we were last time.”

As someone who used to get winded going up stairs, Smith said she’s seen her strength and endurance goals increase since starting the program.

“The first time after coming here for maybe three weeks I just flew up the stairs,” she said. “It was one of the first times that it immediately seemed obvious this is working.”

Walker said Smith’s growth is what many clients see after just a few weeks of starting.

“A lot of what those results are are just really basic, making life easier,” said Walker.

Fitness for the future

As technology continues to play an increasingly important role in our lives, Kanaley hopes exercise will as well.

“I think it’s great that there are so many things out there,” she said. “If somebody is not comfortable being in a gym, that’s a perfect place to start.”

For Smith, the Exercise Coach program gave her the right opportunity to start again.

“Tech can do that for you,” Smith said. “And it does it without adding extra effort to something that’s already difficult.”

But what isn’t difficult is finding a way to get active in the area. 

“That’s the thing about having so many options in Columbia, is if you’re not into tech, there’s an option for that. And if you are, there’s every grade of it,” she said. “That’s just gonna give us more and more options.”

Kanaley said using technology for physical fitness doesn’t have to be an added cost. Something as simple as an online exercise video can serve the same purpose. 

“There are ways to do a lot of it outside and in your home,” she said. “It’s never too late to start.”

Looking ahead to the future, Smith said she also started prioritizing her fitness as a preventive measure.

“I realized the cost of not doing it later, the health care costs that I was going to be experiencing if I didn’t start taking care of myself,” Smith said. “It’s an investment in me now, rather than it coming out of my pocket and my body later.”

But Smith said she’s focusing on the present, as she takes one step forward toward beating her personal best.

“I’m just focused on next time,” Smith said. “Coming in and seeing that char be a little higher, seeing it improving.”


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