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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, October 7, 2002

In-shape Seniors

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

Local entertainer Danny Kaleikini, 65, works out at Gold's Gym under the watchful eye of his personal trainer, Mike Sapp.

Cory Lum The Honolulu Advertiser

Entertainer Danny Kaleikini was about halfway through his hourlong workout at Gold's Gym when he moved onto an inclined chest press machine. He carefully raised 130 pounds as his personal trainer, Mike Sapp, looked on.

" ... seven, eight, nine ... " Sapp slowly counted. "Last one."

Kaleikini was focused.

His eyes stared straight ahead and he exhaled deeply with each push. After about three sets of 15 repetitions, the pair moved onto yet another machine.

"I think working out is so important," Kaleikini said while catching his breath and toweling off the sweat from his forehead. "I feel like a brand-new guy."

The 65-year-old Ambassador of Aloha hopes to set an example and motivate fellow Island celebrities and other senior citizens.

"I see a lot of my 'ohana, the people in show business, and I just want them to be aware that we can take care of ourselves and live longer if we concentrate on our (health)," said Kaleikini.

Kaleikini was 64 years old when he decided to devote three days a week, an hour each day, to getting back into shape.

"It's never too late," Kaleikini said. "Now's the time to start."

Regular exercise is important for senior citizens because it reduces the risk of osteoporosis and improves cholesterol levels, said Dr. Shellie Williams, a geriatric clinician at The Queen's Medical Center.

Exercise also helps the elderly in preventing falls and it improves one's state of mind and functional status, Williams said.

Fitness tips for older people

Dr. Shellie Williams, a geriatric clinician at The Queen's Medical Center and an assistant professor for geriatric medicine at the University of Hawai'i, offers these tips for seniors on getting fit:

1. Consult your physician before beginning any type of exercise regimen.

2. Stay away from strenuous workouts. "Start low and go slow," Williams says.

3. Get an adequate amount of nutrition and eat four to six small meals everyday. Williams recommends eating a well-balanced meal two to three hours before working out.

4. Drink lots of water. For every 15 minutes of working out, Williams recommends seniors drink at least 20 ounces of water.

5. Find an exercise buddy. A workout partner will not only be motivating, but helpful in an emergency.

6. Dialysis patients or those with a history of cardiac disease, lung disease or allergies should wear medical alert bracelets.

7. If you exercise outdoors, go early in the morning or before sunset, when it's cooler.

8. Also for outdoor workouts, use sunscreen with an SPF greater than 30.

9. Exercise in a well-ventilated area.

10. Wear light-weight and loose clothing.

Purpose for training

Kaleikini gave many reasons for getting back into shape late in life, including the desire to improve his image as an entertainer and the ability to catch up with his active 12-year-old grandson.

"It's like being reborn," Kaleikini said, "and I feel like it's a whole brand-new life."

Kaleikini will be the first to admit that he is a far cry from the man who first walked into the gym just a year ago.

"I was out of shape," he said. "I had a pot belly, my pants wouldn't fit and I couldn't wear my shirts (tucked) inside (my pants)."

But since he began training, Kaleikini went from a size 42 down to a 38, lost nearly 20 pounds of fat and gained about 10 pounds of muscle. If it wasn't for his gray hair, one may not be able to guess that this 6-foot, 208-pound, tanned and toned man is in his mid-60s.

"He's a fit 40- or 35-year-old man right now," said Sapp.

An unexpected benefit of his training has been a noticed improvement in his singing, which Sapp attributes to Kaleikini's strengthened lung capacity and improved breath control.

"I'm hitting notes very comfortably," Kaleikini said.

Especially for seniors

Senior citizens do not have to train as hard as Kaleikini to shape up, Sapp emphasized.

"You don't have to be in some real intensive program," he said. A 20- to 30-minute workout that includes riding 10 minutes on an exercise bike, working with light weights and doing exercises for the abdominal muscles would suffice, Sapp said.

But Sapp does encourage seniors to go to a gym, many of which have affordable membership prices at $25 to $50 a month.

He also recommends they work with a trainer, at rates that vary between $50 and $75 an hour. They can meet with their trainers once a week, once a month or even once every three months, he said.

"Whatever it is you can fit into your budget," he said.

However, the gym is not the only option for senior citizens to get in shape. Many community centers offer low-cost or free fitness programs especially for the elderly. Mo'ili'ili Community Center and Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center offer a variety of classes that include aerobics, tap dancing, line dancing, yoga, tai chi, hula and belly dancing.

"You also have a lot of socializing and camaraderie," said Rebecca Ryan, executive director of the Mo'ili'ili center.

Keep it simple

Williams also suggests simple exercises that seniors can do on their own, like working with light weights or swimming.

"But the best form of exercise that's free and easy is walking," Williams said. She recommends 15- to 30-minute walks, four to five times a day.

Esther Yokoyama, 75, takes morning walks in Kahala Mall three to five days a week for about 20 minutes to one hour each time.

"It makes me feel energized," said the Kaimuki resident, who also volunteers as a tutor four days a week to first- and second-graders at Wai'alae School.

Yokoyama began to take walks seven years ago. After receiving triple-bypass surgery five years ago, she decided it was important to continue walking to maintain her health.

"If I don't go walking, it makes me feel 'blah,' " Yokoyama said laughing. "After walking I feel peppy."

Whatever the regimen may be — whether it's walking, doing low-impact aerobics or lifting weights — experts agree that some form of exercise is crucial for the elderly.

"There's a saying in Hawaiian, 'malama kou kino,' which means the caring of the body," Kaleikini said. "I think we should all care for ourselves."