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The fitness center at Splendido, an all-inclusive community for those 55 and better in Oro Valley, is outfitted with compressed air strength equipment that offers unique benefits. Shown: Resident Karen Jonaitis

Weight training or strength training, whether with hand weights or machines, offers unique benefits including improved bone density, reduced body fat, and sharpened cognition.

When you work out with typical weight machines, you are literally “pumping iron”—lifting or pushing iron weights. There is another option that provides a better, safer workout, which is growing in popularity and availability: compressed air equipment. 

This equipment was previously found only in specialized fitness centers like those catering to elite athletes. But residents at Splendido, an all-inclusive community for those 55 and better in Oro Valley, utilize compressed air machines as part of their everyday workouts.

What Is It?

From a movement standpoint, this equipment is the same as other weight machines—there is compressed air equipment for leg lifts, bicep curls, and other typical stations. However, compared to weight machines that use iron, with compressed air, you can move at a constant speed and reduce your risk for injury. 

“The compressed air equipment is highly adaptable and focuses on power and speed as well as strength,” explains Kelly Stranburg, MEd, CEP, CSCS, director of wellness for Mather, the not-for-profit parent company of Splendido.

Unlike iron weights, compressed air lets you move faster throughout your movement; you use the same rate of motion while lifting and lowering a weight or raising and lowering a leg lift, which helps improve neuromuscular speed.

Why is this important? Because it can improve your reaction time for specific movements. “Using iron weights, as on a standard weight machine or hand weights, teaches us to slow down, and that becomes muscle memory,” explains Kelly. “Whether you are an older adult or a super athlete—or just want to improve your reaction time—this equipment is great for training your central nervous system.”

Obviously, athletes work to improve their reaction times—but anyone might be interested in a focus on faster motion, as this could help you avoid falling, for example.

“The things we can do with this equipment are amazing,” says Kelly. “A trained fitness professional can work with users to create compressed air equipment workouts that address chronic conditions like diabetes to osteoporosis,” says Kelly. 

A Popular Workout

Residents at Splendido like the compressed air equipment for regular workouts, and it gets a lot of use. For example, Bob Collinge uses four of the compressed air weight machines as part of his regular workout routine. “I try to exercise at least three times a week, and I follow a fairly standard routine,” he says. “I enjoy the equipment.”

Karen Jonaitis, another Splendido resident, has a similar routine: “I use the eight machines in the order recommended,” she says, “and I do about 30 reps on each. The fitness director here does a good job of telling you how to use each machine to get the most benefit out of it.”

Karen has been using the equipment since she moved to Splendido about five years ago and has gradually increased the weight for each. Compressed air equipment has the option of increasing by one-pound increments; iron weight increases are typically five or ten pounds. “That makes it easy to see and improve your progress; it’s great for those using the equipment for rehab purposes too,” says Kelly.

“Compressed air equipment is versatile, it’s powerful, and almost anyone can utilize it,” says Kelly.

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