Group fitness classes combine fun with senior-friendly exercises

Monday, January 7, 2013
---- The water aerobics class at the Bubble in Cape Girardeau from left, Helen Lohmeier, Sheila Loafman, Jean Nickolaids, Shelby Shell, Claudia Mueller, Brenda Hasty, Ruth Schulte, Shaaron Jones, Judy Bane, JoAnn Adams, Irene Murphy, Joyce Daniels, Bernie Gardner, Patricia Cobb, Marge Singleton, Judy Holshouser and instructor Pat Grebe. (Laura Simon)

Sticking to an exercise routine is tough, but it's a little easier when you exercise with a group -- especially when classmates notice when you've missed a class. Cape Girardeau has a number of senior-friendly group exercise classes, where the social aspect is almost as important as the physical exercise.

"A lot of seniors don't want to come to other group fitness classes because they're intimidated. They think the moves are too fast or that they can't keep up with the rest of the class," says Heather Davis of the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department, which organizes two low-impact classes for seniors. "With these classes being tailored toward seniors, it's a great fit for them to work out with others."

Why not give your workout routine a jump-start this year by trying out a new fitness class? Here's a look at some places offering group exercise classes in Cape Girardeau and Jackson:

Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation

Zumba is a popular Latin dance class mixed with exercise, and Zumba Gold is a lower-impact version of this. "It moves a little bit slower and the movements won't be as intense," says Davis. Zumba Gold meets at 9 a.m. Tuesdays in the fitness room at the Osage Centre.

Parks and Rec also offers low-impact aerobics at 9 a.m. Thursdays in the same location. The 45-minute class includes simple floor movements with some equipment, such as small dumbbells and exercise bands.

Both classes are led by certified group fitness instructors and certified personal trainers. The first class is always free, and after that it's $3 for each session. There is no need to register. Call 573-339-6340 for more information.

Cape Girardeau Senior Center

Arthritis exercise classes are from 9:45 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. According to administrator Susan McClanahan, the exercises are all low-impact and designed to work on agility and balance. Many exercises can even be done while sitting down.

"We always encourage exercises that improve balance and strength-building, because that all has to do with fall prevention. We want to keep our people off the floor," says McClanahan. There is no cost to attend these classes -- and you can even stay for lunch!

T.O.P.S. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) also meets at 9:45 a.m. Fridays. T.O.P.S. is an educational weight-loss class that includes a program, weigh-in and moral support from other attendees.

Call the senior center at 573-335-1352 for more information on these two programs.

Jackson Senior Center

An arthritis exercise class meets at the Jackson Senior Center from 12:30 to 1:20 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. The gentle exercises focus on improving flexibility and range of motion while maintaining strength and stamina. The classes are free and last from Jan. 15 through May 9. For more information, call the Jackson Senior Center at 573-243-4241.

Central Municipal Pool (the "Bubble")

---- Patricia Cobb has a laugh during Wednesday's water aerobics class at the Bubble in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

A Swimnastics water aerobics class meets from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. to noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Central Municipal Pool on Whitener Street. Pat Grebe leads the classes, which include a warm-up session with stretches, walks across the pool, jumping jacks, some light weightlifting and even exercises for the eyes, throat and jaw. According to Grebe, who's been a part of the class since 1992, water aerobics are easy on the joints because there's little weight-bearing and the buoyancy factor makes movement easier on the body.

"It's a social group and they get their exercise," says Grebe. "A lot of times when someone's out for awhile with different health issues, they say they really miss this. They can tell they're not nearly as flexible."

A $15 punch card gets you 12 Swimnastics classes or visits to the pool; they can be purchased at the Arena Building. The cost is $19 for those who do not live in Cape Girardeau. Still not sure if a water workout is your thing? The first class is free, so there's no harm in trying it.

Fitness Plus

Fitness Plus has more than 20 aquatic classes designed for people with arthritis, and manager Sandy Duncan says these are the most popular exercise classes for seniors.

"The warm water is very forgiving to the joints," she says.

Many also enjoy Walking to the Beat, a low-impact cardio class where you'll log three miles without even leaving the building. Line dancing and Flex and Tone classes are senior favorites as well. Fitness Plus periodically offers tai chi classes designed for people with arthritis.

Arthritis classes are open to the community, while the others are for members only. (You do have the option of buying a $15 guest pass each time you want to come, says Duncan, but it's not exactly cost-effective.) A complete class schedule can be found at For more information, call Fitness Plus at 573-331-3355.

HealthPoint Fitness

HealthPoint has water-based classes focusing on pre- and post-joint replacement and for people with arthritis, and "land" classes ranging from chair exercises and stretching to low-impact aerobics, dance, yoga and lifestyle fitness classes that focus on improving strength and balance.

"Participating in supervised group exercise programming provides a great social outlet for seniors in a safe environment with exercises specifically tailored to deal with the aging process," says HealthPoint manager Amy Sutherlin. "Seniors in these classes develop friendships that extend beyond the walls of our fitness centers. They go out socially together to movies, for lunch, dinner and even spend birthdays together."

You do not need to be a member of HealthPoint to participate in the fitness classes. A 10-punch class pass is available for $80. View class schedules at For more information, call HealthPoint at 573-986-4400.

Don't forget the weights

Aerobic activity is wonderful, but every good routine should include strength exercises as well.

"It's important for keeping your heart strong," says Sandy Duncan, manager of Fitness Plus. "As we get older we lose muscle mass and strength. Anything we can do, even light weight training, will help build up bone density."

You can make a big difference with small hand dumbbells. Fitness Plus even has a set of equipment that uses an air compressor instead of stacked weights. Duncan says all you have to do is push a button to make the weight go up and down, and you can also adjust the weight in one-pound increments.

Put safety first

"When it comes to exercise, age should not keep someone from trying new activities or from staying active," says HealthPoint manager Amy Sutherlin. "It's important to touch base with a physician before starting an exercise program or making changes to an existing program. Some activities and exercises may need to be modified to make them safe and effective."

If you have limitations, talk about them with your group fitness instructor before class, adds Fitness Plus manager Sandy Duncan. Your instructor can probably suggest modifications or alternative exercises, then cue you to do them throughout class so you're not overdoing it.

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