Armchair aerobics: Exercising bodies, elevating spirits
On a wintery day so snowy Martha's Vineyard schools were closed, a group of determined seniors made their way to the community center at Woodside Village 2 for the YMCA of Martha's Vineyard's program, "Armchair Aerobics."
Although some might think of YMCA programs as being designed for children and young families, the Vineyard's Y without walls service is directed to all, as demonstrated by the seniors who arrive every week by VTA bus service from Hillside Village, or who simply trudge along the shoveled paths to Woodside's welcoming community center. Eighteen exercise enthusiasts participate in the armchair aerobics class, which began in January, and remains open to everyone.
Photos by M.C. Wallo
The engaging instructor, Myron Garfinkle, a certified yoga teacher, leads the class through a series of multiple stretches and posture exercises. As he guides and instructs, he also adds bits of philosophy and humor, which the group responds to with enthusiasm.
"Let's talk about happiness," Mr. Garfinkle says before starting the wrist and hand warm-ups. "It's up to us when we start each day to decide if the glass is half full or half empty."
From 10:30 to 11:30 am, the dedicated participants, all comfortably seated in chairs facing Mr. Garfinkle, stretch, laugh, chatter, and share stories as they move legs, arms, and torsos.
It is clear by the energetic responses of the group that that this is a group whose glass - on Wednesdays at least - is half full. "If you're happy, we're happy," one participant calls out.
The exercise are carried out to music: "Bobby Magee," "Who's That Lady," big band sounds, some smooth jazz, along with the "Hucklebuck," the "Hully Gully," and the themes from "The Pink Panther" and "Hello Dolly."
Mr. Garfinkle sends out encouragement to each member as the group carries out exercises that include doing the hula, playing mock drums, tickling the invisible ivories, and accompanying one another on imaginary violins.
Throughout the hour the seniors work on improving their hand and wrist flexibility, doing mock swimming exercises - the breaststroke, the backstroke, and the crawl. They clap their hands, tap their feet, stretch, flex, twist, and even row a boat without leaving their chairs. The on-going commentary about life and staying vibrant and well are the main themes of the class.
As they exercise, people discuss Island events, current events and upcoming sporting competitions, as well as films or television programs they've watched. They review events at Woodside, like the scallop dinner the charter school students cooked for them. Once a month after exercise, a light lunch is served as well. Everyone seems to connect to one another, and they socialize as they move their bodies in rhythm.