Grace Saxton and Arlene Rogers, both in their 90s, wouldn’t label themselves fitness fanatics, but they're in shape ― and it shows.
Saxton, 92, a formerly trained acrobat, and Rogers, 90, a longtime bowler, partake in fitness classes at Forever Fitness F2 in Pocono Manor.
The classes are part of the SilverSneakers program, which offers an affordable way for seniors to stay active.
Most participants qualify for a free gym membership via their medical insurance. This allows them to use the gym and also partake in classes such as circuit training and aerobics.
Saxton and Rogers say they've maintained a healthy lifestyle, but are new to the type of workout they find in the classes.
"I didn't work out, but I was involved in sports. I played golf and tennis and skied," Saxton said of her longtime exercise regime. "My advice is you have to keep moving or you'll lose it."
"I played softball, volleyball and belonged to a hiking club," she said. "And I bowl once a week. You have to keep doing it (and exercise) every day."
Certified group fitness instructor Sandy Lopez teaches the Pocono Manor-based SilverSneakers group, along with other styles such as Zumba, spin, aqua fitness.
Lopez said the seniors she meets with weekly at Forever Fitness F2 are her favorite group because of their enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
"In class, I start them (off) easy and then I kind of push them," she said. "They don't like me when I push them, but it works and there is progress and you can see them get stronger and more confident."
She's also seen the health benefits firsthand.
"So many of them come to me telling me that they went to the doctors and that their health has reversed," Lopez said. "The doctor tells them, 'Whatever you doing, keep doing it.' One of (my clients) told me the doctor had to take medication away from her because she doesn't need it anymore. I see that their health is better and that they are stronger."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is in part caused by reduced physical activity.
In a report, the CDC says that by age 75, about 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women engage in no physical activity and among adults aged 65 years and older, walking and gardening or yard work are, by far, the most popular physical activities.
The CDC says that older adults can obtain significant health benefits with a moderate amount of physical activity ― preferably daily.
"A moderate amount of activity can be obtained in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as walking) or in shorter sessions of more vigorous activities (such as fast walking or stair walking," the CDC notes on its website.
Barbara Lairson, 75, from Mountainhome has been taking fitness classes with Lopez for three years.
"Sandy is an excellent instructor. I had neck problems. I had a lot of health problems. I saw a lot of improvements," she said. "I lost weight, my neck doesn't hurt me, and I had neck surgery and I didn't have a stiff neck or anything after."
Eileen McGuire, 67, of Pocono Lake, starting taking SilverSneakers classes hoping to strengthen her core muscles and abdominal area after a medical procedure.
"When I met Sandy, I told her I had a hysterectomy two months ago, I have something (here) that I never had in my life," she said. "I'm a serious bike rider and I power walk in the morning, so I'm here for (this) and by God, she is doing it. I find the classes incredible. I'm actually out of breath (after) and my family is like, 'Really, you Eileen?' This is the best thing."
The CDC recommends that previously sedentary older adults who begin physical activity programs should start with short intervals of moderate physical activity (5-10 minutes) and gradually build-up to the desired amount, and older adults should consult with a physician before beginning a new physical activity program.
In addition to cardio-respiratory endurance (aerobic) activity, older adults can benefit from muscle-strengthening activities, according to the CDC, since stronger muscles help reduce the risk of falling and improve the ability to perform the routine tasks of daily life.
Pocono Farms residents Anthony Hall, 63, and his wife, Janet Robison Hall, 66, went from a sedentary to an active lifestyle.
"My wife (and I) are retired from New York City Transit, so we sat on our butts for 37 years driving the subway trains," Anthony said. "So we had to get rid of some of that train fat."
Anthony, who is two years shy of the 65-year-old age limit for SilverSneakers, pays $25 per month in membership dues to workout at ForeverFitness F2.
He joined the gym after a nudge from his wife and Lopez.
"He was dropping (Janet) off for classes, and I told him to come in and try a class," Lopez said.
Anthony is now an avid bike rider (his favorite jaunt is New York City) and weight lifter.
"I'm already thinking of getting bigger weights for him," Lopez said. "The group has gotten strong on me. One of the ladies last night was planking."
The SilverSneakers group at Forever Fitness F2 calls Diana Custis, 71, the jokester of the class.
Her positive attitude is infectious, and so is her workout plan.
She takes several classes weekly taught by Lopez and can bench 40-plus pounds.
Custis, of Tobyhanna, is also one of the "star" participants in the Rockout Pound class that Lopez teaches ― a combination of cardio and weight training exercises that includes rhythmic techniques and a pair of drumsticks.
Since taking the classes, Custis' cholesterol has lowered "with medication" but more importantly she’s “more joyful.”
Blame her happiness on the endorphins.
"(The secret) is don't take (life) so seriously," she said. "Let it blow over whatever it is and it will.“