More than 100 seniors celebrated National Senior Health and Fitness Day on May 25 with a heart healthy
meal by local chef Adam Hanry.

Hanry, executive chef at Winrock International, brought a prepared meal for the crowd at Saint Mary’s Wellness Fitness Center. The group dined on Caribbean chicken, coconut rice and key lime pie with mango. Hanry rounded on his guests, then took to the microphone to share some of his experiences with the crowd.In its twelfth year internationally, this is the eighth year the fitness center has celebrated the senior holiday.The center requires reservations for this free event, but invites members and guests 50 and older to come celebrate. They are encouraged to bring friends, and several seniors brought their grandchildren on Wednesday.

Each year the center celebration differs slightly, and past celebrations have included a luau, a carnival and a Mexican fiesta. Laurel Stabler, group fitness and programs director, said seniors “are the backbone of our fitness center. They motivate people to come.”

And, since the first senior-directed class began in 1993, they’ve just kept coming. According to Stabler, in 1993 the center began by offering one sit and tone class a week. “We’d get four to six people, and we thought we were doing great,” she said. Twelve years later, there are five sit and tone classes a week and two light yoga classes. The average attendance is now 25 per class, and 600 to 700 seniors visit the center each month. During sit and tone classes, seniors (and others) exercise from a chair to get a back-protected workout.

Many stay for the following half-hour light aerobics class. The light yoga class was designed by five instructors at the fitness center, with seniors and their flexibility and balance in mind. Seniors are also treated to luncheons and mini-programs throughout the year. Examples of other activities are a once-a-month lunch out, “getting to know you” games and an upcoming field trip to Chef Hanry’s home turf atop Petit Jean. Stabler said, “Seniors come here to get in shape, stay fit and socialize. They’re a real close-knit group, and whoever comes in new, they welcome them.”

For more information about Saint Mary’s Wellness Fitness Center or senior programs at the center, call 479-968-7979.