By David Karas | Correspondent
On Wednesday mornings, the parish center of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Whiting, is transformed into a fitness center – minus the obnoxious muscle heads and membership fees.
Thanks to parishioner Gloria Padgett, members of the parish and local community are welcomed each week to join in an hour of fun, healthy exercise, including everything from chair maneuvers to the polka.
“Exercise can be very, very boring,” admits Padgett, who adds that she works to make the experience fun for her guests – and with great results. “They love it, (and) I just love having them here.”
The club offers weekly light to moderate exercise sessions, which Padgett says begin with participants seated before they take to their feet.
“I do a sitting down exercises for a half hour, and then we stand up and I do little relays with them,” she said.
Relays involve partnering up, with an activity like passing a ball back and forth as participants move forward in unison. And of course, a session wouldn’t be complete without a square dance or polka.
“We have a lot of fun,” said Padgett, adding that the group works out to music they can relate to. She said the group consists entirely of seniors, and that she works to make sessions fun and safe, with music participants know and love.
The exercise club has been meeting for more than five years, and boasts some 40 regular members. Padgett said that they often see new faces, as well.
Padgett said that many of the seniors in the area live in retirement communities or villages, and that this gives them another chance to get out and meet others, while contributing to their health.
“Everybody is like family,” she said. “Everybody helps one another. It is just great.”
Club members also enjoy some special treats for the holidays – including a Christmas party and special holiday tunes to work out to in the weeks leading up to Christmas. In honor of Halloween, participants often come in costume, she added.
She said that while many exercise programs can be strenuous, she works to make this experience easy and manageable for those who come out each Wednesday for the 9:30-10:30 a.m. session.
“This is very easy and they can do it,” she added. “They feel good about themselves.”
Padgett donates her time to this initiative, which blends well with her work managing a wellness program for senior women in Hillsborough. She teaches dancing there and visits nursing homes and hospitals as well.
No stranger to performance and dance, Padgett made many appearances on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City during her days as a performer. Now, she uses her background and experience to run shows for and with her seniors, and to engage them in exercise in a fun way.
Each weekly session ends with prayer – with all participants joining hands and sharing intentions with the group and praying for those who could not be there.
Parishioner Joanne Hoffmann has been a member of the exercise club for more than two years. She initially joined in part because of the group’s facilitator.
“I know Gloria, and Gloria makes it fun,” she said. “We have a lot of fun, and it gets you moving.”
She said that the sessions start the day off nicely, and provide participants with a great feeling when they leave.
“It builds camaraderie for members of the church,” she said. “You get to meet people, (and) we all have fun.”
She said that even when participants don’t know one another, it is a great environment to strike up a conversation and make a new friend.
“Everybody is really pleasant, and Gloria makes it this way,” she said.