About 15 senior citizens squat, stretch and tone in a brightly lit community room at the Peekskill N for an hour three times a week – even though some need a cane or walker to get around. The routine is part of their regular “dancercise” workout with instructor Gerrie Kirsch, a certified trainer and former ballerina who has been teaching the class at various locations in Westchester for 25 years.
The class consists of mostly women and two or three men. Students range in age, ethnicity and ability level, but Kirsch runs a tough class that works for everyone. She combines nutritional training with challenging exercise adjusted for the age level to keep seniors healthy and to give them a group activity to enjoy.
“It is not easy,” Kirsch said. “I’ve had some younger people come in to the class and leave in 15 minutes because they couldn’t do it.”
The class includes a full aerobic exercise and incorporates weights, balls, sticks, squats, abdominal workouts, breathing exercises and more.
“It is everything,” Kirsch said of the health benefits of exercise. “It is blood circulation, bone growth, energy, being together. We laugh as a group. That is important to senior citizens.”
Kirsch basis her classes on giving students a good work out and adjusts it for older people by demanding less reps than she would normally. Kirsch also reviews nutrition and teaches them about how nutrition and exercise go hand in hand.
“I also live this life, so it is easy for me to teach it because I really believe in it,” she said.
Mary Simone, an 86-year-old Peekskill regular who attends class twice a week said she does not like to miss her work out. “It gives you movement. You feel it when you don’t do it,” Simone said.
Another student, Connie Corry of Cortlandt, has been working out with Kirsch six times a week since she was 65 years old. She is now an 84-year-old who looks decades younger.
“The following is great,” Kirsch said. Over the years her classes have grown in size and multiplied, she said.
“It is more like a family a place where everyone comes together and cares about each other,” Corry said.
Another student, Jim Fleming, chimed in with a joke. “Every once in a while we hug each other, but no sex.”
Kirsch teaches in Cortlandt, Peekskill, Scarsdale, Mamaroneck, Elmsford and other towns. She is also an artist who works with mixed media.
To find out about classes near you call your local neighborhood center. The Peekskill classes are free to residents and take place from 10 to 11 a.m. Monday through Wednesdays at the neighborhood center.