Imagine a group of 30 seniors, some with walkers or canes, working out in a class just for them. They are either seated or standing behind a chair going through various exercises. The class is part of the national Healthways Silver Sneakers Fitness Program, which is available in several fitness clubs and different branches of the YMCA in Johnson County. Three Medicare Advantage plans include a Silver Sneakers benefit.
Lawson Duncan leads the Silver Sneakers classes at 24-Hour Fitness in Overland Park along with her assistant, Tyler Cox. Duncan is in her fourth year with Silver Sneakers and has been with the club for 10 years.
“The goal of Silver Sneakers is to enable seniors to have functional strength for day-to-day activities like getting out of a chair, the bathtub and taking groceries into the house,” Duncan said.
“Keeping seniors exercising and healthy keeps your brain working as well.”
Sandy Hemphill, who was working out in a class on Tuesday, has been in Silver Sneakers for two years.
“I really enjoy it,” she said. “It helps with my strength. It really helps.”
The classes meet twice a week at 24-Hour Fitness in Overland Park for 50 minutes.
“The exercises are to help with improving balance, flexibility and have a fun time doing it,” Duncan said. “The classes are geared toward seniors, but we have had younger people who have had physical problems.”
Seniors in the class will use tubes, dumbbells and Silver Sneaker balls as part of their exercises. Participants are led by Duncan in various exercises using the three implements, and they also do stretching exercises.
“I had a stroke three years ago,” said Jim Martin, another class member. “I want to maintain what I’ve got. That’s why I am here.”
In addition to improving overall health, there are other benefits to exercising.
“It’s fun,” Duncan said. “When you are exercising, you can make friends, and you are more likely to keep up with the fitness program.”
At 91, Lucy Bradford was the oldest participant in Duncan’s class on Tuesday.
“This is keeping me fit — that’s why I’m here,” Bradford said.
Duncan has national certification with Silver Sneakers and a national umbrella certification with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, while Cox has certification with the American College of Sports Medicine.
Cox, who has been helping with Silver Sneakers for six months, said, “My job is to help her (Duncan). I look to see that everyone is doing the exercises properly and give her any assistance that I can.”
Cox has been in the Silver Sneakers program for six months. He sees the class as a way for seniors to get back into exercise on a regular basis.
“When you age, exercise becomes less of a priority. This (Silver Sneakers) is a means to get back to exercising.”