by Cori Hilsgen
A number of area residents are trying a “Forever Fit” approach to exercising and staying healthy by participating in exercise classes held at the Church of St. Joseph Heritage Hall.
The class, instructed by Paula Woischke, is part of the Whitney Senior Center’s “Whitney WithOut Walls” program, an outreach activity that brings Whitney-type programming to local areas.
Woischke is a certified fitness instructor who has a master’s degree in gerontology. She has been teaching fitness classes and working with seniors for more than 10 years.
“I love what I’m doing,” Woischke said. “I cannot imagine myself giving up teaching my classes due to all of the friendships and the opportunity to see the impact of the benefits of the exercise, as well as the social part of the classes.”
Sue Meers from St. Joseph has been attending the classes. Meers is in her mid-70s. She couldn’t start the classes when they first began because of other commitments but has been attending for about two months.
Meers said she enjoys the classes because it’s exercising with other people which is easier than exercising alone. She said it can be hard to motivate herself when she is exercising alone, but when she does it with other people it’s just more fun.
“I know as we age our strength deteriorates a little bit and our balance is also affected,” Meers said. “It’s very important to keep those things up to stay healthy and to stay in our homes.”
Meers likes that the class isn’t real rigid, but instead moves along with music and is a lot of fun. She said attendance varies. There are usually more people at the sessions on Tuesdays than there are on Thursdays.
Classes are an hour of focusing on cardiovascular exercise, strength training and balance. Woischke can adapt the class to most fitness levels. Both men and women are welcome to join the class.
Each class can include up to 15 participants who can either be with peers of their own level of fitness or a group of various fitness levels from the frail to the more fit, older adult. Classes do not require any special or expensive equipment.
A typical class includes a five-minute warm-up to get blood flowing to the muscles, a 20-minute aerobics workout that gets participants moving or a walking workout to lively music that the class chooses, a five-minute cool-down, a 20-minute strength-training workout with Therabands, a 10-minute stretching workout to keep the muscles flexible, and balance exercises throughout the class.
The class is proven to increase strength, boost activity levels and elevate moods. People who regularly attend improve their balance and often become more limber.
Church of St. Joseph health and wellness minister Marjorie Henkemeyer said they welcome the Whitney classes.
“We are excited to have this opportunity to work with Whitney Senior Center and are looking forward to adding a variety of fitness classes at a later time,” Henkemeyer said.
Woischke has taught at Whitney for more than eight years and assists with the WWOW program.
“I’m very excited to work with Marjorie in bringing the WWOW program to St. Joseph this fall,” Woischke said. “Marjorie identified the need to bring senior health and wellness programming to the community.”
Current classes are from 1:30-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and will continue until Dec. 5. Individuals are invited to join the group and check out the level of the program. A nominal fee is charged for each session.
A new series of classes will begin on Dec. 10 and continue until Feb. 27. Those classes will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon-1 p.m.
Woischke plans to add more programming in the new year, which will include Tai Chi and the Matter of Balance program. All programs are planned for seniors.
Woischke is also active with many other senior activities, including working with long-term-care facilities in developing exercise programs, running a Red Hat group, being a member of the Healthy Aging Network and Aging Association, serving on the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” committee and others.