A good way to stay active as a senior citizen is to participate in Silver Sneakers, a free exercise program that focuses on agility and balance strength-training.

Mary Sue Holder has lead the class for the past 16 years. They meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 to 10 a.m. in the Central Baptist Church gym and draw in members from all over Panola County, regardless of denomination. Right now the ages range from 55 to 87.

“One time I stumbled on a rock, and because I’ve been doing this, I could keep myself in a very unusual squat position until I could catch something to stand up straight, even with all my bad bones and things because it strengthens your ability to be flexible and agile enough to handle things like that,” she said. “It’s recommended as a strength training balance exercise for people that are older to help them to keep from falling, because the biggest thing that happens with older people is falling, and once you start falling, you end up in a nursing home or you end up in a hospital.”

During the Silver Sneaker program’s exercises, they work every muscle of the body, Holder said. They use standing, sitting, belts, weights and balls.

“We centralize on the core muscles, which are essentially for breathing and for your back, and that’s done by tightening your tummy, and the more they do that, like if you’re doing the curls and you tighten your tummy, you get 10 times more evidence from it then if you just sit there and do this,” she said.

Holder isn’t a drill sergeant though, and members do the exercises at their own pace.

“Different people come, and they do what they can, and it’s okay,” she said. “If they can’t stand and sit, then it’s okay. That’s the hardest thing we do, is to stand and sit eight times in a row. But it’s an excellent exercise.”

Their workouts also include breathing exercises, and Holder says they try not to stress any joints. Working on muscles and breathing helps participants to be healthier people.

Holder considers Silver Sneakers to be a ministry.

“Because we do serve each other, and we do fellowship with each other, and because we are in a church, I always want to thank God for what we’ve done that day and for ourselves and for our nation and things, and so I close in prayer,” she said. “So I call it a ministry because it’s serving people.”

Having Silver Sneakers as a community has been helpful for people especially during current times.

“We keep in touch with each other,” Holder said. “It has been especially helpful during COVID when so many people have been isolated that we were disconnected as a group from November to February. So it’s November, December, January, February basically we did not meet, but we would text one another about what to pray for and how we’re doing and things like that, and then like Linda went to South Carolina to see her relative for two weeks, and she heard about our storm so she texted people that she was praying for us here. It is an outreach program for community, which is so important during the times that we are in now, and so many people are isolated.”

The first day they started back, they had 14 people, Holder said.

“Everybody was so glad to get out, and we do social distancing even in the group because we have so much room, and so it’s not an exercise where there’s any influence of the germs from COVID because we wear our masks going in and coming out when we’re with other people,” she said. “Then once we get seated, we take our masks off because we’re more than 6 feet apart, and we were like that even before you have to be able to stretch your arms out.”

To join Silver Sneakers, just show up, Holder said. New members have a two-sided sheet of paper they’ll need to fill out.

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