Shaping Up Shelby: Seniors try different paths to fitness

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By Kelly Lafferty

Dance instructor Bob Devers changes the CD in the stereo, and about 20 people line up and start dancing to the Fat Joe and Nelly hit "Get It Poppin'."


Not a song you would expect to hear in a line-dancing class.

It's not just rap music, but pop, country and oldies tunes fill the space reserved for the class at the Family Activity Center at Clear Creek Park in Shelbyville on Friday evenings.

One of the participants, Alma Clark, said she has been line dancing for 20 years.

"I just love it," Clark said.

Clark and the other participants, who are mainly senior citizens, agree that line dancing is good for your health and mind.

"It gives me energy," she said.

Norma Doyle, another dancer in the group, said she thinks line dancing is great for keeping young.     "Anybody can just get out and dance," Doyle said.

For seniors and perhaps some of those less into major athletics, Shelby County is abound with opportunities to help them stay in shape without requiring hard-soled shoes, though some may require a bathing suit.

Rodney Dempsey, 74, said he has been involved with the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program since 2002.

After Dempsey had to endure five heart bypasses and a 3-week coma after the surgery, as well as having to go through dialysis, he was walking with a cane and needed to regain his strength and coordination.

He joined the aquatic class for seniors and said he no longer needs a cane to get around.

Twice a week, Dempsey goes to the class in the FAC's indoor pool and works on upper and lower body strength, motion and flexibility.

"It's so hard for people in their 70s to exercise the way they should," Dempsey said.

But the body isn't under any stress in the water, which makes it easier for those with arthritis to move their joints.

According to Dempsey, the class isn't just good for getting in shape but good for stimulating the brain.

"It's really good to be around people," he said. "We're old. It's a good outlet for us."

Similarly, tai chi,  a class offered at Shelby Fit For Life on Wednesdays, has proven a huge draw for senior citizens because of its breathing techniques and fluid body movements.

Norma Bullock went to her first tai chi class recently and said she plans to attend to the future classes since she enjoyed it so much.

"The older you get, the more aches and pains you get," Bullock said.

She joined the class to help with stress and arthritis.

Teresa McKinley has been practicing tai chi for a year. When she started, she was suffering from Raynaud's disease, which causes a loss of circulation in the fingertips when it's cold. McKinley's fingers would throb and turn white.

"Since I've been doing tai chi, I haven't been having that problem," she said.

Whatever the reason to start exercising, all can agree that it's been a beneficial choice for them to join one of the many classes offered for seniors in Shelby County.