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Strength and flexibility key to well-being

Aberdeen Heights’ new wellness coordinator, Taylor Combs, doesn’t apologize if her classes are sometimes a little difficult.

“It’s supposed to be challenging,” Taylor said. “They shouldn’t always be easy — there should be workouts that make you take a deep breath in and out. I’m willing to work a little hard, but I try to make it fun, too.”

Her reason for pushing residents is rooted in the knowledge that increased strength and flexibility are critical to quality of life, and these skills help residents navigate daily tasks with more ease and confidence.

“They benefit from the classes, especially those that focus on strength and mobility,” Taylor said. “Working on range of motion helps seniors avoid injuries that are common with aging. On strength, the movements they do with dumbbells prepare them for everyday activities, like going up stairs, walking outside on the ice, or stepping over a spilled cup. I try to focus on the bigger picture and bring it down to strength.”

One of the most rewarding parts of Taylor’s work is when residents share their growth.

“I’ve had residents say, ‘I’ve been able to go up a pound in weight,’” Taylor said. “They are so proud — and they should be proud. It seems like a small achievement, but it’s huge. It shows you are not declining, that you are improving your strength. One woman said she’s never felt that good. That makes me feel so good.”

Physical and mental health are intertwined, and it’s important to keep both in good shape.

“If you don’t feel good about yourself, it affects other areas of your life,” Taylor said. “It can put a damper on your health. If you’re not feeling well mentally, if can affect your physical health, and vice versa. Physical activity lightens your mood, and it seems that residents feel inspired by the workouts. They want to continue to feel that way.”

To exercise both, Taylor incorporates mental strategies into her workouts, such as marches that require alternate leg motions, counting repetitions and switching arm positions.

Taylor said she finds a great amount of joy in her classes, particularly when the residents get engaged and motivated to stay healthy.

“When I engage with residents, they are very motivated to work out,” Taylor said. “They are encouraged to do another round, and for me, sitting in front of them and doing the exercises, I think it helps get them ready.”

Since starting in her new position in November, Taylor said she’s found a great deal of fulfillment and satisfaction in her work, which aligns perfectly with her education and personal interests.

“I love fitness,” Taylor said. “I grew up playing sports, and when I graduated I had to figure out what to do. I got an undergraduate degree in social work, then decided to get my master’s in recreational therapy. When I saw this (job) posting, it looked like fun. I get to think about my own programs, and I get to work out all day. I use the skills of a social worker and bring in my knowledge of fitness and nutrition.”

Outside of work, Taylor is engaged to be married in April. She has a dog named Beans, and she loves to bike, kayak, be outdoors, watch sports and spend time with family and friends.

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