Classes help seniors get in shape over holidays

San Juan College Community Learning Center
Encore program

FARMINGTON — Although the new year is the most popular time to resolve to exercise more, the Encore program at San Juan College offers exercise classes that begin in December — just in time to exercise through the holidays.

Strength and Stretch, taught by Alberta Chappell, has a new class beginning Monday at the Aztec Senior Center. Senior Fitness, taught by Jean-Elise Smith, begins Dec. 16, with two classes at the Bonnie Dallas Senior Center and one at San Juan College’s Health and Human Performance Center.

"I have led by example that it's never too late to start exercising," Chapell said.

At 71, Chappell thinks she may be the oldest aerobics instructor in San Juan County. She has experienced a number of illnesses, had major surgeries and did not exercise for nine years while she was busy owning and operating a business in Farmington.

"Having the ability, stamina and endurance to teach this class is a rewarding accomplishment in itself," she said.

In the class, Chappell emphasizes safety, with participants identifying their own levels of mobility, strength and endurance to set realistic goals for improvement or maintenance. Students in both Chappell's and Smith’s classes emphasize the exercises improve their mobility, flexibility and balance.

Both classes also emphasize fun and camaraderie.

"Great friendships have been found, and we are like a family. They are such a joy in my life," Smith said. "Students eagerly and spontaneously share their improvements and satisfaction with me on a daily basis. Plus, they have all become such good friends, are eager make new students welcome and really care about one another."

Chappell particularly enjoys selecting music from the 1950s and 1960s, country and western music, and pop songs particularly developed for senior aerobics.

"They love to sing along with the songs they know, and they have learned my routines to the music very well. So when I see them totally involved in (the) class routine, their level of confidence in what they are doing makes me feel very successful," Chappell said.

Instructor Jean-Elise Smith teaches Encore’s Senior Fitness at the Bonnie Dallas Senior Center and San Juan College.

Chappell ends the week on Fridays with a "Smart Class" — a 15-20 minute academic session after the aerobics class.

"We have such a good time talking about seniors' health topics, sharing knowledge, asking questions, that sometimes the session lasts for 25 minutes and I have to run them off," she said. "These sessions have helped them overcome the intimidation of being in a group, have taught them that they can laugh and have a fun time and have enabled them to know that they're not alone in their struggles with health issues and aging. It pleases me greatly to have seen the camaraderie and cohesiveness of the group become a reality. When I see them smiling, laughing, and enjoying their time, I feel rewarded in my effort."

All Encore classes are designed for adults 50 and older but are open to all students 18 and older. For New Mexico residents 65 and older, the class cost is $5.75. For residents under 65, each class is $46.75, and for non-residents, the cost is $146.75. For full details on Encore classes, including how to register, visit or call San Juan College’s Community Learning Center at 505-566-3214.