“Age is mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
This is Mature Fitness for Women where participants range from teenagers to octogenarians but most people are 55 or older.
They dance, do step aerobics, core training, yoga, flexibility drills and many other exercises people half their age are doing at the mega gyms.
“A lot of these women are in better shape than many of those thin women in their 20s that I see at other gyms,” said Sandy Cassinerio, the gym’s owner.
The women who take part in the classes say this niche fitness studio has given them better health, a social highlight to their week and a place where they feel supported.
“We all feel like we fit in here,” said Judith Castle, 62, who has been training at the gym since it opened in 2008. “I’ve joined other gyms and dropped out for one reason or another, but usually because I didn’t get the personal touch. I didn’t get the caring attitude and camaraderie that I get here.”
That isn’t by accident. Cassinerio, 43, has been a fitness instructor for more than 20 years and specializes in fitness for what she refers to as the “the aging population.”
“The senior population are lovely people and I’m so passionate about them,” said Cassinerio, who studied exercise science at Pacific Lutheran University. “And it breaks my heart to think that there are so many women out there who are at home not exercising and getting frail and ending up in places where they are no longer independent.
“There are so many things they can do, like a 30-minute chair class, to get strong, to get out of the house and to meet people.”
In the 30-minute chair class, all exercises are done from a sitting position. The exercise level can be ramped up in other classes when participants are ready, she said.
She runs the 30-minute sessions consecutively from 7:30 a.m.-noon and 5-7:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and 7:30 a.m.-noon on Fridays. Additional classes are offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Cassinerio says some participants stay for 30 minutes and others stay for a couple of hours.
Castle started going to Mature Fitness for the same reason most people go to gyms – to lose weight. But she keeps coming back for reasons much more important.
“I’m diabetic so I need to exercise regularly,” she said. “I’ve come to an age where I need to pay attention to staying strong and staying focused more on my health. I need to work on balance and strength at this age.
“I’m focused on pure fitness and that’s what I get here.”
As Castle explains this, her friend, Mary Jo Hopkins, 72, chimed in. “She’s going to take care of me when I’m 80.”
Of course, Hopkins, whose favorite class is the Latin dance workout Zumba, was joking. She is a regular at classes and has an energetic personality (She jokes about adding a senior pole dancing class) with no intention of slowing down.
“Every day things like lifting weight onto a shelf, getting up and down out of a chair; we might not be concerned about it at this age,” Hopkins said. “But you see people who have trouble doing that and we are practicing so that we are able to continue to do these things.”
Joyce Criss, 73, has been a member at Mature Fitness for six months and has noticed herself getting stronger.
“I can pick myself off the floor without having something to hold on to,” said Criss, whose husband is in an adult family home. “That’s a big thing. ... And between this and going to visit my husband, the weeks whiz by faster than I can imagine. All of a sudden it’s Monday again.”
The women say the social aspect of the classes are as important as the fitness. “I really think it is the friendships that I come for,” Hopkins said.
Mary Jo Creso, 60, has been a member of a health club since she was in high school but she says her two-year stint at Mature Fitness has been one of her favorite exercise routines.
“I usually don’t stick with a class because I feel like they are too hard,” Creso said. “Even health clubs that have senior aerobics are too strenuous sometimes. With Sandy, you can get results without totally exerting yourself.”
Creso appreciates that Cassinerio has multiple variations for almost every exercise.
“She keeps it challenging, but we don’t have to risk injuries to get results,” Creso said.
For many of the women here the goal is simple, Hopkins said. “The goal is to keep it up.”
“I am able to do all the daily chores that I need to be done,” Castle said. “And I have the confidence that I will be able to continue to do these things as I get older.”
Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via craig. firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/adventureguys or twitter.com/adventureguys. Get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure or thenewstribune.com/fitness.