By Michael Broihier
and Katelynn Griffin
Retired teacher Janet Smith, 78, said she began the program as a New Years Resolution, but in the process, “met a lot of fun people.”
Monday and Wednesday classes, led by Toni Powers, are dedicated to stretching, strength, range of motion and balance. Powers is adamant about the benefits of the class. “You can see a difference every day. They tell me they can put on their seatbelt easier, look over their shoulder when backing up their car easier and do everyday tasks like putting milk back on the top shelf of their refrigerator easier,” she said.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that exercise is good for seniors’ health, Powers echoes her students sentiments about the importance of the class’ social aspect, “They enjoy the visit,” she said.
The music during Powers’ class is age-appropriate; swing music and soft 50’s music sets and easy rhythm for students as they workout with resistance bands, light hand-weights and exercise balls. It is also theme-appropriate; Frank Sinatra sings, ‘You make me feel so young’ and ‘Young at heart’ as Powers leads the group through their routine. It also includes one of Powers’ favorites, ‘Has anybody seen my gal (Five foot two, eyes of blue) that her father sang to her everyday growing up.
There is a wide variety of abilities among the Monday/Wednesday group; some students are in very robust health, Carol Fields walked a 5K last weekend and won her age group, and other students remain seated throughout the class, but all of the exercises can be done by all of the students regardless of their condition.
On Tuesdays and Thursday, instructor Judy Whittaker picks up the pace. The class is a high impact, intense, cardio workout that also uses weights, a workout ball and bands. There is very little down time in the class; from the very beginning Whittaker has the participants on the move. They begin the class with some basic warm up activities, like marching in place, stretches and kickbacks. “It’s a standing class,” Whittaker said. “They’re much more outgoing in this class than in the range of motion class.”
After warming up, the pace picks up a bit and the class uses the weights to do curls other exercises. They follow up with exercise bands and go through a variety of stretches.
When the workouts get intense, some good-hearted complaining starts. “I’m an old lady,” one reminds Whittaker. Another responds, “I’m older then you.” And yet another tells the instructor to slow down because “we get confused.”
Both groups end their sessions with a cool down period; Powers dims the overhead lights and turns on multicolored lighting. When the soothing music begins, one of the students jokes, “This is the romantic part.”
After class, some students continue their workouts in Precision Fitness’ weight room, but many more stay to chat and eagerly offer endorsement of the class’ benefits. Jo Board, 70, of Halls Gap, said that after knee surgery the class really helped and that the exercise has done “wonders” for her. Board describes herself as the clown of the group and provides the entertainment. “I just have a good time and the ladies are family,” Board said. “I have known some for years and some I have just met.”
Marilyn Howard, 69, and Ollie Nantz, 76, both of Stanford, have benefited greatly from the program. “I just feel so much better mentally, physically and spiritually,” Howard said. They said they know a lot of older people that talk only about what hurts or the surgeries they have had. Nantz said, “We have too many wonderful things to talk about without worrying about that stuff.” By enrolling in the program, both women said the people they’re around are more uplifting and they enjoy coming to see them.
Retired Stanford Chief of Police Dan Young concurs with the ladies’ assessment of the benefit of exercise. He began exercising three years ago and has lost 50 pounds. He also said exercise has almost eliminated his diabetes. “I am 100 percent better,” he said.
Mary Lou and Noel Kirkpatrick attend class together. Their children encouraged them to start exercising, and Noel Kirkpatrick said, “It has helped me a lot.” Kirkpatrick was diagnosed with dementia five years ago and the couple agree that exercise has significantly improved his condition. “It helps me focus,” Kirkpatrick said and has allowed him to do day-to-day tasks, like getting dressed , far easier.
Gym owner Gene Goode, seems to enjoy the seniors visits as much as they do. “It is fun to watch them because they have such a great time and they actually look forward to it,” Goode said. Goode said he worked for about two years to get the program started in Stanford. “Once you retire you lose your routine and you separate yourself from society,” Goode said. “This allows you to get back into society.”
Establishing the program took a while because instructors needed to be certified and a system established that allows some Medicare recipients who have co-insurance to attend the class for free. Powers said that all she needs is a student’s name and date of birth to determine if they were eligible for a free membership. If a student doesn’t qualify, Precision Fitness offers a reduced membership price for seniors that includes the Silver Sneakers class.
Monday/Wednesday classes start at 10 a.m., and Tuesday/Thursday classes begin at 9 a.m. For more information call Precision Fitness at (606) 365-2002.
Silver Sneakers fitness classes improve health and quality of life
Four times a week, senior citizens in Lincoln County can work on their strength, range of motion and balance at Precision Fitness¿ Silver Sneakers classes. (Photo by Michael Broihier)