At Touchmark retirement community at Mt. Bachelor Village, Natalee Reyes works on balance, movement and strength training with more than 300 residents.
“When I’m teaching memory care residents, I focus on fun, with lots of movements and good music,” says Reyes. “That’s mainly what it is about – to smile and have fun.” With those in the memory care unit, she wants everyone to have a good time.
Reyes graduated in June with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science (EXSS) in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU-Cascades. She interned at Touchmark early this year where she focused on exercise classes for independent and assisted living communities. She was offered a position at the end of her internship.
Born in Bend, Reyes became a certified personal trainer and taught community boot camp classes. After a few years, she knew she wanted to enroll in a program where she could learn more about the science of exercise.
Reyes is part of the first class of EXSS at OSU-Cascades. She thought she was going to have transfer to the main campus in Corvallis, but the new program started just in time for Reyes to stay in Bend.
“We are the pioneering class,” says Reyes. “There were only about 25 people in the program when I started. Now it’s more than doubled.”
She is a recipient of one of the OSU Foundation scholarships available to OSU-Cascades students.
“When I’m teaching memory care residents, I focus on fun, with lots of movements and good music.”
Reyes’ focus is on exercise physiology, and the important role exercise plays in the management of chronic disease. Many chronic diseases are now linked to inflammation, and exercise and diet help reduce the risk. Reyes sees that in action at Touchmark.
“People take a lot of medications to control hypertension, but people can get resistant to the medicine,” says Reyes. “There are studies that show how exercise can help control it.”
She says exercise helps ward off depression, sadness and that feeling of uselessness that can be prevalent in a senior population.
“Exercising brings blood to your brain and activates your memory systems,” says Reyes. “It’s much more than about wanting to stay in shape. It’s about maintaining your physiological systems for a long and healthy life.”
Reyes plans to eventually get her master’s degree in exercise physiology and hopes to work as a clinical physiologist helping people who are dealing with chronic disease.
“I have a lady in class who has lost her ability to speak and is doing the exercise from her wheelchair – she was determined to be part of the class,” says Reyes. “She is amazing. Exercise is medicine.”