Fit for Life

The LifeFit Center @ The Beach is helping area seniors stay fit and active.

Emmett Heinrich pulls intently on a weight machine at the LifeFit Center @ The Beach’s Fitness Floor. After several repetitions, the 89-year-old moves on to another piece of equipment — one of 18 he’ll work with that morning.

Looking fit and trim, he’s at the center four times a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to perform his exercise regimen, and Thursdays for a fitness class. He might encounter another member, alumna Angie Avery, who’s nearly three decades younger and equally dedicated to staying in shape.

LifeFit is far more than just a well-equipped gym. Its more than 400 members include community residents age 49 and above, and CSULB faculty and staff of any age, who can take a host of fitness and wellness classes and workshops. Additionally, “We’re an educational and research laboratory, so we host College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) courses in our facility,” said director Ayla Donlin. “We offer internships for kinesiology, nutrition and physical therapy students every semester and we also host research that graduate students and faculty members are conducting.

“The third function is that we offer outreach programs both on campus and in the community,” she added. Through its Beach Community Wellness Program, kinesiology and nutrition students lead free fitness and nutrition programming in underserved city areas in partnership with the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. For instance, they’re currently hosting programs at Houghton Park in North Long Beach.

Heinrich began working out on campus in 2000 after retiring from a long career as an aircraft worker in Long Beach. He joined Frog’s Gym, a commercial facility located in the Walter Pyramid, which had a number of older community members. Frog’s eventually closed, so CHHS acquired its equipment for a Center for Active Aging that evolved into the LifeFit Center. It relocated to the Kinesiology Building and reopened in 2012.

CHHS continues to oversee LifeFit, a fee-based program that is separate from CSULB’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). The two groups partner to support active, healthy older adults, and OLLI members get a LifeFit membership discount.

An essential role of LifeFit is preparing students for kinesiology and fitness careers, especially in serving the increasing number of older adults who want to stay fit. “Our facility is entirely student-driven,” Donlin said, noting that she, assistant director Emily Sopo, and operations and membership coordinator Heidi Engler are Long Beach State alumni. Its fitness professionals also are graduates or current students.

“I have found myself saying to people as I’m explaining the anticipated population boom of those age 50 and above, that this is probably one of the first generations where it’s a cultural norm to have spent their adult years going to the gym, or at least having the option. That’s why it’s so important that we’re providing specialty programs for that demographic.”

One of those active adults is Avery, who earned her bachelor’s in 1976 and master’s in 1979 in recreation and played on the Long Beach State women’s basketball team. She spent her career managing recreation and community service programs in several Southern California cities before retiring as city manager of Los Alamitos in 2013.

Stay Healthy

Just some of the health and wellness events offered on campus this semester.

February 18

LUNCH & LEARN THURSDAY 1-1:30 P.M. A 15-minute presentation to teach individuals ways to enhance their quality of life. SRWC Beach Balance Room. Hosted by ASI.


NUTRITION COUNSELING Free one-hour peer nutrition counseling available to students (by appointment). Health Resource Center Offered by Student Health Services


“EXERCISE IS MEDICINE” WELLNESS WEEK 4/11-15 A host of free events including the Lauda Wellness Lecture, fitness assessments and stretching and fitness classes. Hosted by CHHS

May 5

NIGHT OF RELAXATION 7:30 – 9:30 P.M. An opportunity to receive gentle yoga meditation and instruction while reflecting on the long semester. MAC Gym at the SRWC. Hosted by ASI

“Actually, it’s been my favorite thing in retirement,” Avery says. “In retirement, the freedom to do what you want, and to have this fantastic facility, leadership and programs available was like a dream come true.”

She began taking various classes and then joined Strength for Living, a 16-week program for groups of eight to 10 people that involves cardio, strength training and balance components. Participants are assessed periodically and can join subsequent groups to continue their progress. Part of that improvement is tracked through the MyZone heart rate monitoring system, used in this and several other LifeFit classes.

When Avery had hip replacement surgery, she benefited through LifeFit’s partnership with PT @ The Beach, CSULB’s public physical therapy clinic. “It was like a one-stop shop, “ she said. Donlin and head therapist James Buenaventura collaborated to build her strength prior to surgery and then assisted with her post-surgical rehab.

“There aren’t many fitness facilities that have a physical therapy clinic inside, or vice versa, so this is a neat model that demonstrates our Exercise is Medicine initiative and working together to bridge the gap between the allied health and the fitness professions.”

Belonging to LifeFit has an added aspect — a caring, sociable environment. “It’s helped me talk to people more,” Heinrich said. “Ayla is sensational and knows everything about running it; she does it right.”

Avery agrees. “I’m happy when I arrive and I’m happy when I leave, and what could be better than that.”

Learn more about the LifeFit Center at or by calling 562.985.2015.

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