Gaston & Catawba

Physically and mentally rejuvenated

When Sheila Miller moved to Gastonia from Northern California three years ago, she spent most of her time at home watching television.

“I had no outside interests,” Miller said recently. “I just ate and gained weight.”

Then she joined the South Gaston YMCA and began attending the Healthways SilverSneakers fitness program.

“SilverSneakers changed my life,” said Miller, 68. “Now I have friends who worry about me if I miss class.

“ I feel so much better mentally.”

Miller also takes the SilverSplash water aerobics class. “I had hip-replacement surgery last year and in a week I was back at the Y.”

Audrey Porter, 72, attended the very first SilverSneakers class the South Y offered four years ago and has been a devoted member ever since.

A retired nurse, Porter likes the variety of the exercises.

“We target every part of the body with cardio, yoga, Pilates. We work on balance. Some exercises are done standing and some sitting in chairs. Many of the movements we do are designed just for seniors.”

Her favorite exercise is the stampede, a chair exercise that alternates running in place and marching. “We use the whole body, even if we are sitting.”

The South Gaston Y offers SilverSneakers at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Classes can be found at all Gaston, Cleveland and Lincoln county YMCAs, according to Healthways Account Manager Daniel Stafford. More than 3,000 fitness centers and Y's across the U.S. and Puerto Rico partner with Healthways to offer this program.

There are four kinds of classes offered by SilverSneakers:

Muscular strength and range of movement.

Cardio circuit class.

SilverSplash water aerobics.


Stafford says that the goal is to enable older adults to remain independent and to improve their overall well-being.

“Studies prove that Silver- Sneakers participants have less overall health-care costs than non-participants,” he says.

And it's fun.

Lloyd Emmons, 92, says that he and his wife Lyla, 87, try never to miss a SilverSneakers class. “We've made so many friends here, and people really care about you.”

Miller calls Lloyd and Lyla “Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful” because they inspire her to continue exercising.

“I couldn't even bounce a ball the first time I took the class,” she said. “Now I get out more, have a lot of friends and have lost weight!”

Adds Audrey Porter: “What I like best is that everyone in our class smiles!”