Love the holiday or loathe it, the pink and red sea of heart-themed decor, ads, and even memes will be hard to ignore today. But the Valentine’s Day symbol can also remind us of another, less sentimental observance taking place all month long: February is American Heart Month.
The Heart + Health Connection
There’s a clear connection between feelings of closeness and companionship and heart health. Did you know that people who have close relationships at home, work, or in their community tend to be healthier and live longer? One reason, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is that we’re more successful at meeting our health goals when we join forces with others. Feeling connected with others and having positive, close relationships benefit our overall health, including our blood pressure and weight.
Exercise plays an especially important role in promoting heart health, and getting fit with others can help connect you to a social community that in turn supports wellbeing. Any form of exercise can also lower your risk of heart disease, improve blood circulation, manage stress, and boost the immune system. But exercise is also deeply personal; despite the obvious health benefits, many people find it difficult to motivate themselves to get or stay fit. That’s why I’m so excited to introduce Senior Planet readers to a group of people who have agreed to share their inspiring fitness journeys exclusively with us!
Meet the Athletes
Recently, Senior Planet staff put out a call for adults over 60 who are excited about fitness, have identified fitness-related goals for themselves, and are willing to share about their experience to inspire other older adults. Of those who responded, we selected six Sponsored Athletes whose stories inspired us, and whose stories we think will inspire you:
Carol Klenfner is a former rock-and-roll publicist who took up the sport of ping pong after some significant personal losses, and now she’s a New York State gold medalist. She hopes to be competing at the World Veterans Championship tournament this year in Bordeaux, France.
Burr Daly plays tennis and is a sprinter, long jumper, and triple jumper with 12 All-American awards from USA Track and Field, Masters track. After four surgeries in four years, including a knee replacement and heart surgery, Burr is looking to get back on the Masters track and rack up some more medals.
Jennifer Grambs is a fashion writer who fell in love with ballet at age twenty and has been dancing ever since. She believes that ballet training at any age enhances our everyday lives and helps us balance ourselves, both emotionally and physically. She is creating a free ballet class for older adults—women and men, too—to explore how the art of dance inspires each of us to feel good and look even better.
Liliana Cortez is a self-care practitioner who inspires her friends and family with digital yoga instruction. She is inspired by yogic principles and wants to share her passion with other older adults.
Joan Janek, a three-time cancer survivor, completed an Outward Bound program for survivors of trauma and challenged herself swimming, backpacking, and rappelling down cliffs! Now, she’s using workout videos and the gym to build strength for rowing.
David Hill (pictured above) defies stereotypes about aging as a long distance runner. He’s aiming to compete as a top age-category runner in two major marathons in Boston and Chicago, and to inspire people of all ages by sharing what has kept him healthy and fast without getting injured.
How to Follow Along
Each of the Sponsored Athletes has an inspiring story and a unique perspective on fitness, and each uses technology to support their fitness routines. All year long, they’ll be inviting us into their lives, sharing about their challenges and successes by writing a regular column on SeniorPlanet.org, posting videos to the Senior Planet YouTube page, and hosting in-person events throughout the year. In need of a little motivation to get moving? Read along at SeniorPlanet.org and follow Senior Planet on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring folks, and maybe you’ll find a new love for fitness along the way.