Folks over fifty know that staying active is one of the most important lifestyle choices they can make. From increased flexibility to improved stamina, sharper mental focus to satisfying social engagement, the advantages of participating in some sort of physical fitness program are almost too numerous to mention.

Nearly as numerous are the ways seniors can find a fitness program that works for them. The Adult Activity Center at Pottawatomie Community Center has a line-up of fall fitness programs that can be as intense as a high-intensity bootcamp or as gently restorative as the ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi Chuan.

"Our classes focus on flexibility and low impact movements," said Taylor Krawczyk, Adult Activity Center Supervisor at the St. Charles Park District. "Different age groups have different capabilities. The goal is staying active at whatever your ability level may be."

For the engaged and independent older adult, two bootcamp classes offer ways to improve, enhance and maintain strength, cardio capacity, balance and agility. "Bootcamp Gold" is an hour-long class filled with age-appropriate drills and activities that offer a new twist on traditional conditioning exercises such as windmills, lunges, kicks and squats. And whether you haven't done a jumping jack since high school gym class or you've exhausted your library of workout tapes, all fitness levels are welcome to join the "Bootcamp Gold" classes, where program formats are specifically designed to minimize stress on aging joints. Or, for those who want to literally and figuratively kick the bootcamp workout up a notch, the Outdoor Tabata Bootcamp is based on a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) microburst protocol of 20-second/10-second workout/rest routines. Held at the park district's new outdoor fitness plaza, this two-week session is a concentrated program that will focus on effective body workouts to maximize results in minimal time.

"This is a fast-paced and really fun program," said Krawczyk. "We're so excited to be able to offer this outdoors at a great time of year."

For those who want the opposite experience yet still want to achieve a full-body workout, the "Tai Chi and Qigong for Older Adult" classes explore this ancient Chinese martial art known to be the most widely-practiced exercise in the world. With its focus on breathing, relaxation and concentration, Tai Chi workouts also help improve balance, strength and flexibility. Gentle, low-impact movements have been shown to benefit those with arthritis and osteoporosis, and participants who practice consistently have shown to have greater flexibility, coordination, and range of motion.

And for those looking for a good middle-ground, both the "Lite Cardio" and "Sit, Stretch and Tone" classes offer workout programs that elevate the heartrate without over-taxing joints and bones. In "Lite Cardio," specific muscle groups are targeted and core stability is increased through functional fitness exercises, while the "Sit, Stretch and Tone" classes focus on entire-body stretching with the use of resistance bands and light weight-training movements that can be done from a seated position.

"Our instructors are amazing in that they give options for each ability level and can modify routines to participants' needs," said Krawczyk.

Indeed, it is this precise need-based focus and individual attention that can make senior fitness classes at the Adult Activity Center attractive to older participants. It can be intimidating to be in a general population class with students anywhere from their teens to thirties, where the pressure of competition can often be a deterrent to someone who has been away from a regular fitness program for awhile.

"Working out with your own age group can help people keep returning and help build confidence," said Krawczyk.

Unless otherwise specified, all Adult Activity Center fitness classes are held in the second level activity room. Classes are small - usually around 10 students - which allows for individual attention and encourages socialization among participants.

"I've seen friendships develop through these activities," said Krawczyk, noting that many fitness class participants then go on to discover many other group activities such as pickleball, wellness walking and the many drop-in programs offered at the Adult Activity Center.

And speaking of drop-ins, those who may not be ready to commit for a full multi-week session of a particular activity can try it out first through at the Drop-In class rate of $10 per lesson. For more information about the Adult Activity Center's fitness programs, contact Taylor Krawczyk at 630-513-4324.