Staying active at any age is exceptionally important, but as we grow older it is imperative to maintain the ability to function independently in everyday life. Unfortunately, many adults (age 50 or older) live with chronic health issues brought on by poor health decisions.

However, for older adults, good nutrition choices coupled with regular physical activity may remediate many stubborn health issues and make the well-known moniker “the golden years” a reality (rather than a catch-phrase describing life over age 50). In fact, with the aid of an appropriate wellness program and healthy eating habits, older adults can be healthier and more fit today than they were yesterday; the fountain of youth, incarnate.

Functional fitness is a buzz term that means exactly what it sounds like — fitness that will help you function in your day-to-day activities. A functional fitness program will help older adults continue to carry their own groceries, walk their dog, climb stairs and reach for items on high shelves, thus minimizing the risk of injury.

The Montecito Family YMCA boasts its new Fluid Motion class (Feldenkrais Method), a 60-minute mat class where one learns to move with less effort in order to make daily life tasks easier. This methodology focuses on increasing mental awareness to improve physical movement. Senior Fit is another great class in which you consciously work on your balance, strength, flexibility and muscle isolation.

However, if you happen to be struggling with injury, consistent pain or even arthritis, consider Aqua Zumba as a great way to get your daily intake of vitamin D and improve your cardiovascular and muscular fitness in a fun, outdoor and low-impact environment.

Whichever path you choose to take, remember to think movement first.

For more information on the YMCA programs and support available to help you get started, click here or contact your local YMCA branch.

» Camarillo Family YMCA — 3111 Village at the Park Drive, 805.484.0423

» Lompoc Family YMCA — 201 West College Ave., 805.736.3483

» Montecito Family YMCA — 591 Santa Rosa Lane, 805.969.3288

» Santa Barbara Family YMCA — 36 Hitchcock Way, 805.687.7727

» Stuart C. Gildred YMCA — 900 N. Refugio Road in Santa Ynez, 805.686.2037

» Ventura Family YMCA — 3760 Telegraph Road, 805.642.2131

— Jane Gama Reed is a group wellness coordinator for the Montecito Family YMCA.