No-excuses fitness offered at community center

Local senior citizens make health, happiness priorities in 2016

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published January 6, 2016

 Clawson residents Naomi Gray, front, and Rosalie Boerkoel utilize resistance bands during a Dec. 30 chair exercise class at the Hunter
Community Center.

Clawson residents Naomi Gray, front, and Rosalie Boerkoel utilize resistance bands during a Dec. 30 chair exercise class at the Hunter Community Center.


CLAWSON — After receiving two artificial knees, Sylvia Fry knew her days of traditional aerobicizing were over.

But that didn’t stop Fry from making sure she continued to exercise on a regular basis by visiting the Hunter Community Center.

“My doctor said any exercise that you do is better than nothing,” she said.

Fry, 76, attends chair yoga and chair exercise classes at the center and said it keeps her feeling great. The classes are free. Donations are suggested, but not required.

“You do whatever you can, and I find that doing exercise like this three days a week — it really helps,” she said. “So we always say, ‘Come do what you can, and if you can’t do it, then don’t.’”

About 25 seniors gather three days a week to attend the chair exercise class, keeping their fitness as a top goal regardless of ailments or ability.

Instructor Karen Kmiecik said it is important to stay active and exercise regardless of physical limitations.

“The biggest thing is try,” she said. “Go to a class and try. The most you are going to find out is you were right. Or, you are going to find out you were wrong and that is even better — to find out that you were wrong and that you can sit and do leg extensions or your lift your arms high above your head.

“If you don’t start, you won’t know.”

Kmiecik has been an instructor for about 30 years, spending the past six years at the Clawson center. She said it is her greatest satisfaction when she sees a participant do a little better, reach a little higher or stretch a little further.

“That is what I like watching: them getting better, and they are having fun doing it,” she said.

Kmiecik recommends attending a chair class for those unsure about their physical abilities.

“For those people who can’t do a lot of standing, it helps to build the strength up,” she said. “And a lot of them that couldn’t stand and do some of the exercises before — after coming for about a month or so — are starting to stand up a little bit more and doing it.”

Her class incorporates bends, stretches and arm and knee lifts while sitting, and optional standing — with or without the participant holding on to a chair. Participants use 1- or 2-pound hand weights and resistance bands during the class.

At a recent class, some were dressed in exercise apparel while others were in dress slacks and  sweaters, which drove home the point that just attending and participating is good.

During the class, lively music played and participants weren’t afraid to talk and laugh.

Kmiecik said it is important to keep things fun and upbeat to make sure everyone enjoys the experience and maintains their exercise routines.

While reminding all to maintain breathing, she joked, “I always find it bad when people stop breathing.”

Along with physical activity, participants say it is equally important to remain social and come for the laughs, warm welcomes and camaraderie.

“It makes you feel good and you’re out mixing with others, and that’s important too,” said participant Rosalie Boerkoel, 81.

Boerkoel said she attends the chair exercise and the chair yoga classes weekly and enjoys both.

“It keeps us going and it is fun,” said class participant Naomi Gray, 90.

Gray said she began taking the class five or six years ago and keeps on coming, especially for the atmosphere and companionship.

Fry agreed that she also keeps coming back for the warm welcomes and friendships.

“It’s just so much fun,” she said. “In the class we laugh and talk. We’re all very friendly.”

All chair class participants are invited to stay for the second half-hour of the class in which Kmiecik teaches light aerobics.

Other classes offered for adults to keep their New Year’s fitness goals on track at the center include Tone & Strength, Zumba, Senior Chair Yoga
and Functional Fitness for Women.

The Center also offers a fitness center for those looking to maintain their fitness resolutions.