Living an Independent Life With Senior Fitness

Gentle Exercise Benefits Those in Any Condition
By MARIA SCANDALE | Apr 24, 2019
Supplied Photo NOW SHOW US YOUR LEFT: Nelson Heyer, 94, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, works with personal trainer Jim Bertram.

Manahawkin — As a fitness trainer specializing in senior fitness, James Bertram wants to emphasize one very important fact about exercise: “Exercise can benefit everyone regardless of age, fitness level, abilities, physical condition or chronic health issue.”

An appropriate personalized exercise regimen can help improve a person’s overall physical, mental and emotional well-being, make activities of daily living easier, reduce stress and build self-confidence, he listed.

Exercise also improves balance and mobility, thereby reducing the risk of falling, a major concern for seniors.

A stellar example of fitness at age 94 is Nelson Heyer, a client of Bertram’s who lives in the Greenbriar community in Waretown. Heyer is a retired rear admiral of the U.S. Navy, and still an avid fisherman when he frequently visits Barnegat Light.

Balance is the main issue that Bertram works on with Heyer.

Heyer was born in Rochester, N.Y., and received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Union College, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stevens Institute. He served on Navy ships during World War II, and then transferred to the cryptology unit in the Naval Reserves in 1950. He worked for IBM in human resources when he retired.

In his words, “Hiring Early Bird Fitness four years ago was the perfect solution to maintaining my overall good health. It was also therapeutic for balance and flexibility, allowing me to remain independent and do the activities I enjoy with family and friends.”

Heyer continued, “James varies the workouts so I remain engaged. Between lifting weights and boxing, I’m very mobile for a ‘dude’ of my age.”

Seniors Become Clients

For Many Reasons

Bertram’s interest in exercise for the 50-plus generation began when he owned and managed a health club in northern New Jersey. Many of his senior clients required more than a general exercise program, due to health issues. He decided to focus his studies on post-rehabilitation, restorative therapy, balance and fall prevention. This led him to the decision to sell his health club and move to southern New Jersey, where the senior population is large.

A fitness coordinator for an assisted living facility was Bertram’s job for the first nine years. He developed and supervised daily exercise classes and recreational activities appropriate for a wide range of residents, from those who were active and independent, to people in the health care and memory units.

“Family members of residents often commented on how amazed they were at both the physical and mental improvements of their loved one,” Bertram reported.

Regular participation in the exercise classes and recreational activities helped increase mobility, flexibility, strength, balance and stability, improved social interactions, and boosted confidence and mood.

“Imagine 80- and 90-plus year-olds actually looking forward to participating in daily exercise classes,” he tells everyone today.

A master personal trainer, he started his own business, Early Bird Fitness, and focuses on in-home training for people who find it difficult to leave their home.

“I have trained folks with minor to serious health issues,” Bertram described, listing stroke, cardiovascular disease, COPD, diabetes, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and various forms of arthritis. “Every client receives training designed for their specific needs, abilities and goals.”

Early Bird Fitness clients range in age from the late 50s to 90 and older, and there are a few who have celebrated their 100th birthday.

He gets many calls from people who have completed physical therapy and want more help.

“Post-rehabilitation after physical therapy is essential to a full recovery,” Bertram explained, “and many people find it difficult to continue the exercises recommended by their physical therapist on their own.”

He also has clients who have been sedentary for many years due to a prior injury or illness.

“They want a structured exercise program to help build strength and stamina, improve balance and mobility with the goal of becoming more active and doing the things they enjoy most,” the trainer said.

Besides training individual clients, Bertram, a Manahawkin resident, also conducts training sessions within adult communities in the entire region. He provides one-on-one training on exercise equipment in the community fitness rooms and offers weekly group circuit exercise classes.

Those interested in scheduling a free fitness consultation or learning more may call 609-994-3274.

— Maria Scandale

mariascandale@thesandpaper.net

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