Strength Training with Rachel Eisenman
Once thought to be too difficult for the elderly, strength training is now seen as a great exercise for seniors. The students in Rachel’s classes range from being quite flexible and strong to somewhat frail, but Rachel adapts the exercises for all levels of fitness. The conversation is good-natured and casual, with Rachel teaching about fitness and students asking questions. The students remain very focused on the exercises, and Rachel is vigilant about their form. She carefully avoids exercises that might strain joints or worsen medical conditions.
Certain exercises are covered in each session: squats, calf raises, dumbbell rows, bicep curls, back strengthening, and balancing. These moves are designed to mimic the activities of daily life, making it easier to bend over and pick up objects, open and close windows, walk longer distances, push heavy doors open, climb stairs, and maintain balance. Ultimately, strength training and weight bearing may slow the progression of osteoporosis.
Rachel Eisenman came to Project FIND in 2003 after working as a fitness specialist and trainer, and found that teaching the elderly “just clicked” for her. While studying for a Master’s degree in Exercise Science, Rachel learned about the work of Miriam Nelson, a researcher whose groundbreaking studies promoted strength training for the elderly. Over the years, Rachel has modified and expanded on Nelson’s work, incorporating the latest research into her teaching.
Rachel’s classes work well because of the individual attention she gives her students. She knows which exercises people with osteoporosis or hypertension should avoid. She watches her students carefully, correcting their form and encouraging them. One of the greatest satisfactions for Rachel is when participants tell her how much better they feel. “I’m less dependent on other people,” says Rosalind, a participant in one of Rachel’s classes. "And the fear of falling or being in the way just kind of vanished."
Rachel has a B.A. from Hamilton College and an M.S. in Exercise Science from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is certified in CPR/AED.