For many people, the past few months have allowed for picking up new hobbies or making time for forgotten ones.

Creating a balanced schedule of exercise and mental stimulation can prove to be invaluable for all who do it.

The Silver Sneakers program is a nationally-recognized fitness program specifically designed for seniors with varying levels of difficulty.

Erica De Smet, a resident of Bosque Farms, is a Silver Sneakers instructor at Main Street Muscle and Fitness Center in Los Lunas.

“There’s different levels of the program,” De Smet said. “You can also do a Level 2 class, which is only standing exercises.”

De Smet currently teaches Level 1, which includes sitting and standing exercises.

“During these classes, we use light weights, a resistance band and a ball for exercises. It’s also a lot of calisthenics and stretching; not a lot of heavy weights or repetition,” De Smet said.

Socializing is another major component to the classes, which is extremely beneficial to participants.

During the state-mandated closure of gyms, the classes moved online until Aug. 1 when restrictions were lifted to allow for 25 percent capacity at each class. Main Street Muscle owner and fellow Silver Sneakers instructor Selina Saiz taught classes online before Aug. 1.

“For the room size, I was able to have 10 people who were wearing masks and face shields during the class, and the chairs were spaced much more than 6 feet,” De Smet said.

This program and those similar to it encourages seniors to get out of the house daily, get them stretching and get their heart rate up, she said.

“With Silver Sneakers 1, you don’t have to stand up the entire time. You don’t have to sit down the whole time. You can go at your own pace,” De Smet said. “I encourage people even if they’re doing it at home to stretch your muscles, stretch your bones, get up, maybe start the day with some exercise and if you feel comfortable, come to any class that you can.”

A question that is often asked is how can participants do these exercises at home without equipment.

“What we try to do for Silver Sneakers is helping them get through a day,” De Smet said. “Help them do exercises that will help them pick up their grand kids, pickup and put away their groceries and things like that.”

She said all that’s needed is a chair. Canned goods can serve as weights. A sock or a sheet can substitute as a resistance band. Something similar to a small beach ball can be purchased to help with stretching and gripping exercises.

“Even when you’re sitting down in a chair, you can lift your feet up and down; you can use your ball to do some stretching during commercials,” she said. “Use what you have around the house to incorporate into these exercises.”

Silver Sneakers is offered at Main Street Muscle and Fitness Center, 435 Main St. SW, Los Lunas.

Currently, the gym is operating under a modified schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Silver Sneakers courses are 10:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Only 12 people are allowed in each class space, so participants who are already members of the gym need to register online prior to coming in to ensure they have a spot. Visit the gym’s website and go to the member portal on the left side of the site to log in and register.

To register for the Silver Sneakers program, a participant must bring in their insurance and health care provider information.

The gym will register in the program on the participant’s behalf and Silver Sneakers will cover the cost of membership for the courses.

Jubilee, the active adult community in Los Lunas, is known for its many clubs, but due to the pandemic, groups haven’t been able to meet in person.

Patti Tanis, a resident of Jubilee, used to teach a watercolor painting class. While those classes have either been canceled or moved online, she still encourages those who are interested to try it.

“There are a lot of watercolor classes online. You can look for beginner’s classes online and that will give you a head start until we can do in-person classes,” Tanis said. “There’s many videos online that show you step-by-step instructions that allow you to follow along.”

Tanis favors watercolor paper by Arches and paints from Windsor and Newton. Watercolor paper has a thicker, more rough consistency to it, which allows the paint and water to bleed and create a more subtle gradient effect as opposed to acrylic paint which is much more controlled and has harsher edges.

“Watercolor is kind of a difficult medium to work in. I wish I knew how hard it was when I began doing it,” Tanis said with a laugh. “The most important thing about watercoloring is that you cannot control it. You have to learn to accept letting go because this water and paint will do what it wants to do.”

All of the brands and products she recommends can be purchased online, with most items less than $20. There are many inexpensive kits for beginners available online as well.

Good brushes are also important to have, even for beginners.

“If you skimp on those, you don’t get good quality strokes and then you get disappointed,” Tanis said.

There are many video tutorials online that show the real-time process of painting using watercolors. Searching for videos specifically for beginners will offer more helpful instruction and technique explanation for those who have little to no experience with this medium.

Many students prefer videos to other forms of instruction such as photos or books because videos can be paused and rewound until the viewer is satisfied or caught up.

“Watercolor teaches you how to let go and relax, and that’s what we really need right now,” Tannis said.

What’s your Reaction?
Anna Padilla, News-Bulletin Staff Writer