By CINDY SCOTT DAY
FREEPORT, Ill. — New Orleans jazz sang out from the speakers in the multi-purpose room at the Family YMCA of Northwest Illinois Monday morning, as it typically does two days a week.
“Let’s do bow-and-arrows,” called out instructor Carol Heinrich. “Soft bend in that elbow. Make sure your elbow’s not locked.”
It could have been any fitness class, but on Monday and Wednesday mornings, the participants have enough silver in their hair to easily earn the Silver Sneakers name.
Heinrich, a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise, has been teaching the Silver Sneakers classes for about a year and a half. This month the Family YMCA, located on the Highland Community College campus, began piloting a more intensive cardio-fit class, an addition to the other two Silver Sneaker offerings _classic and circuit.
Silver Sneakers is a fitness program aimed primarily for people 50 and older and offered through participating health plans, usually at no cost to members, said Heinrich. She teaches the 10:30 a.m. classic class, both Monday and Wednesday, as well as the cardio-fit class at 9:30 a.m. Monday and the circuit class at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The classic class is the basic beginner’s class, she said. It emphasizes functional fitness for daily living. “We gear it toward fall prevention,” she said. “If you’re really deconditioned or have health issues, it’s a good place to start and get back into the exercise routine.”
Much of the classic class is done seated in a chair. The circuit class is taught mostly standing and using a chair primarily for stretching.
“The cardio-fit class has more floor work, and we don’t use a chair until the end,” she said. “We try to make sure we get through all the muscle groups.”
The circuit and cardio-fit classes are suitable for people with secure balance, she said.
Laverne Michael, 75, recently returned to the classic class after a hip replacement a year ago and a knee replacement in October. “It makes me extend and do things you wouldn’t do otherwise,” he said. “We gotta keep active.”
Fran Cremer, 78 and a retired nurse, started the program a year ago. “My husband has neuropathy and has a hard time with balance,” she said, which is why she attends alone. She usually is in both the Monday and Wednesday classic classes, “and I walk on Fridays. Other than that, I’m just busy.”
Cremer says her main health issues are high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol _ “nothing else that gives me too much difficulty. The body’s a great piece of engineering, and you have to do your part to keep it going.”
Dorothy Thompson, 83, and her husband, Robert, 81, drive up from Forreston to take the class. One of their dogs knocked her down while playing in 2013, and she broke her right wrist, knee, and ankle.
“I already had an artificial knee in there.” It took most of last year and a second surgery for her finally to recover.
“I like to be active,” she said. “I just don’t want to end up in a wheelchair. It just makes me crazy to only be able to read and watch TV all the time.”
Robert Thompson said he’s had a couple of heart bypass surgeries, and his right shoulder is stiff from a rotator cuff injury about 15 years ago. “Now good old arthritis is into the other one.”
“I know I wouldn’t do this with a video or DVD. It just wouldn’t interest me,” Dorothy Thompson said. “You get out with other people and it really helps.”
The Silver Sneakers classes average about 10 to 15 people each meeting,” said Gina Karvelis, health and wellness director. The classes also are open to all YMCA members in addition to Silver Sneakers members.