SHERIDAN — “It’s the greatest exercise program. You don’t feel tired when you’re through,” said Effie Rexroat.
Effie and her husband, Richard, attend the Basic A.M. Moves (BAM!) class that meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Sheridan Senior Center. The Rexroats are unique: they are the only couple who are currently attending the class that has been known to have as many as 30 or more people in one class. What’s not so unique is that even though both Effie and Richard are in their 90s they are not the only ones — and they are not the oldest. Six regular participants in the BAM! class are in their 90s with the oldest participant exercising at age 96.
Does this come as a surprise? It shouldn’t. Exercise can be a part of anyone’s regimen at any age according to BAM! class instructor Eric Frey.
“It’s about helping people stay active as long as they can that’s appropriate to them,” said Frey.
Frey is a certified exercise specialist in sports, nutrition and geriatric health. As the outpatient coordinator for the Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Wyoming Rehab program, Frey contracted with the Senior Center in spring 2016 to teach the class that has had a popular draw for years.
Fun is an essential element of the class with the highlight on exercise. But Frey recognizes two other elements that are as important for participants.
“Getting everyone together as a group and them getting out makes the exercise easier,” Frey said.
Frey’s approach must be working: the BAM! class has been a continual draw for participants since it began years ago, with some classes hosting as many as 35 participants.
“If it’s not fun, then it’s not fun,” Frey said.
What makes the BAM! class special is that the majority of its participants are ages 70 to 96, with a few in their 60s. Their age is a testimony that motion doesn’t stop if you choose so.
“Choosing whether you want to do this or not is much like eating,” Frey said, referencing that it’s often a matter of choice to exercise. The participants reflect this. One class attendee exercises from her wheelchair and another has rejoined the class after surgery.
Diane Peterson had total reconstructive knee surgery in November and returned to the BAM! class.
“I was coming several months (to BAM!) before and I think it really helped with the surgery in loosening up those muscles and making everything stronger,” Peterson said of the class. “It makes me feel better to come here and exercise.”
“She did remarkably well,” Frey said of Peterson. “Not everyone would do as fast as she did but she (Diane) did all her homework.”
Frey, a certified exercise specialist, brings 16 years of experience in sports, nutrition and geriatric health to his instruction. He integrates 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise to other exercise to improve range of motion such as reaching and stretching.
“We tend to age differently,” Frey said. “Someone at age 90 ages differently than someone at age 70. A lot of this depends on how you fed and exercised yourself during your life. Some depends on your pre-disposition for illness such as arthritis.”
Frey encourages exercising every day for the BAM! participants and considers the BAM! class as a get-started class. Frey encourages participants to exercise every day whether it be by walking or attending classes at the YMCA.
“Helping people stay active as long as they can that’s appropriate for them,” Frey said.
Said BAM! participant Richard Rexroat of the class, “I’m going to be 93. I think it’s really good.”
By Lois Bell
Sheridan Senior Center