Juggling helps seniors stay fit

Randy Engel is making a name for himself by teaching older folks how to juggle.

The retired professor of organic chemistry is a regular instructor at Edmonds Senior Center.

Engel, 68, was faced years ago with the possibility of falling victim to a debilitating disease. The prospect prompted him to start exercising.

It worked. He got better.

A teacher by nature, Engel was then inspired to earn his certification as a personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise.

As part of that training, he found out about the mental and physical benefits of learning to juggle, particularly for seniors.

Engel took on that challenge, as well, believing in the adage that people should never leave the playground.

Juggling fits right in with that philosophy, he said.

“It’s a fun, relaxing activity that helps with your coordination, your balance and so much more,” Engel said. “I’ve been delighted at the reception for this class. It’s so much fun for me, too.”

His class is geared for those who have no circus experience.

Juggling starts out slow and steady, with students bouncing beach balls back and forth to each other.

People who participate can expect to see improved flexibility, greater upper body strength, reduced anxiety, improved memory and concentration. And they get a nice little cardio workout to boot.

Liz Windgate, 72, of Edmonds is the former web developer for the senior center. She had a car accident several years ago that affected her balance.

“If you can fix your brain, you can do anything,” Windgate said. “Juggling is much more challenging than a lot of other exercises for seniors.”

On Tuesday, Windgate had a great time.

“I have to overcome my fear of letting go of the ball,” Windgate said with a laugh.

Her partner for the morning, John Williams, 73, also of Edmonds, said he had tried juggling when he was young.

“This is great. I really have to concentrate,” said Williams, a retired data processor. “The key is to latch onto the rhythm.”

“It doesn’t look like much, but juggling is actually a pretty good aerobic exercise, too.”

Christina Horst drove up from Seattle on her 89th birthday Tuesday to participate.

“I’ll try just about anything,” Horst said.

That’s what Engel likes to hear.

“I know I will be juggling for the rest of my life,” he said.

Learn to juggle

The current juggling class meets at 10 a.m. Thursdays, through July 3 at the Edmonds Senior Center, 220 Railroad Ave. Cost is $5 a class. Drop-ins are welcome.

For more information, call 425-774-5555 or go to www.edmondssc.org.

To learn more about Randy Engel and juggling, go to www.jugglingdogfitness.com.

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