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TAHLEQUAH – Working out and physical fitness is ideal for optimal health and overall well being, especially as one ages. 

A senior exercise class at the Male Seminary Recreation Center is helping elders with their overall well being with a weekly fitness class. Seniors 65 and older have been trekking to the gym to take part in a 30-minute class, three days a week, to perform exercises that help with their day-to-day movements through strength training, balancing and stretching. 

MSRC Physical Activity Specialist Christina Kirk is the instructor, and she uses different types of training in the exercise routines.

“We go over balancing every day. They have to balance with both feet, or they have to have help with a chair. Then over the past few weeks, some have been just doing bodyweight. So, they haven’t had any help with balancing, just strictly themselves instead of using outer objects, reducing risks of falling, balancing, strengthening their bones, preventing osteoporosis, and (improving) mental and physical well being,” Kirk said. 

Cherokee Nation citizen Karen Woody, 70, has attended the classes for some time, after returning to Oklahoma from Texas and having a benign tumor removed from her brain. 

“It wasn’t cancer, it was just a tumor that needed to be taken out,” Woody said. “Once they did that I had a lot of trouble. Because the tumor was on my right side, it affected my left side. So, I had a lot of trouble with my balance and with my foot. I started coming back to senior exercise. Because of Christina’s direction, I feel so much better. My balance is better. I just I feel alive again, and I’m really grateful to her direction.”

CN citizen Mae Dean Erb, 80, started coming to the class to help her husband, Jim, become more active after having he had some health difficulties. 

Though she said they were some of the oldest in the class when they started, they have come to love not only the exercise but also the camaraderie the class provides with its 20 to 25 students.

“It could be a lifesaver. You never know,” Erb said. “It isn’t all exercise. It’s the communication with others of the same age or near the same age group and the inspiration of the people who teach these classes. They are tuned in to what’s going on all around them and the many different levels of activities that people can do. The camaraderie is probably one of the draws.”

Kirk said she gets inspired seeing the improvements in her participants, even those who have used walking assistance in the past, such as canes, that no longer use them. 

“It makes me inspired,” Kirk said. “They’re role models to me whenever I become an age that I want to be as active and social and have that in my lifestyle. It’s been a blessing to see them from where they started to where they are now, you know, functioning everyday lifestyles.”

Aside from the senior fitness class, MSRC is looking into starting a senior recreation program where more elders can come and enjoy a plethora of activities from chair volleyball, pickle ball, cornhole, billiards and any other type of activity they may interested in doing. 

“We have a lot of ideas on things that we would like to get started. But we want to see what the interest is there for the seniors before we develop anything. We want to make sure that we get it right, and we’re doing what they would want us to do,” Arron Edwards, MSRC director of community wellness said. 

For more information on senior activities, call MSRC Recreation Specialist Terry Hooper at 918-453-5496. 

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