Nicole L. Rogers, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at Wichita State University, has improved the health of numerous senior citizens through the WellREP (Well-Rounded Exercise Program) she created and implemented.
WellREP is an evidence-based, progressive exercise class specially designed for older adults. Rogers has been offering the program at Wichita-area senior centers and retirement communities for more than 10 years. Highly trained graduate, practicum and undergraduate internship students lead the classes.
The Lifelong Learning program at WSU has also contributed additional instructors which has allowed the program to grow.
“The program began as a research collaboration between WSU and Senior Services of Wichita,” says Rogers. “It has evolved into a free community service that serves about 150 older adults at 10 locations.”
The goal of the class is to improve health and functional ability, promote independence and help prevent chronic disease and disability in older adults. The classes include a step-by-step approach to improve student’s physical abilities with a variety of activities that focus on cardio / aerobic, flexibility, strength and balance.
The exercises can be performed seated or standing and are adapted to meet participants specific needs. The program has also been modified to accommodate individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
Rogers says participants in the WellREP program consistently exhibit significant improvements in functional ability, balance, strength, flexibility and heart and lung fitness. She says although increased physical abilities are wonderful, that is not the only benefit of the class.
“WellREP participants also receive the advantage of participating in a social activity which can improve mental and emotional health,” she says.
Rogers says she has always been interested in promoting physical activity and has done extensive research on how exercise influences the aging process. By implementing safe and effective community programs like WellREP, she has been able to translate her research and passion into practice.
She says participants truly enjoy the classes and understand the importance of staying active. In fact, when the WSU students are on winter and spring breaks, some members take charge and make sure the classes continue in their absence.
“The program has become increasingly popular each year,” she says. “Two new locations have requested the program for the spring semester.”
Rogers has presented the WellREP program around the world to professional organizations focused on health, fitness and aging. A similar class is now offered to older adults in 12 cities across Japan.