Finding a fun way to stay healthy

Jo Wilkinson leads an exercise class at First Baptist Church of Tellico Village. The class meets at 10 a.m. Tuesdays.

Tellico Village seniors are taking advantage of a fun, unique exercise class once a week at First Baptist Church of Tellico Village to help improve balance and strengthen muscles.

Jo Wilkinson is a retired occupational therapist who serves as an exercise instructor at the Wellness Center. She initiated the class last year for seniors dealing with chronic and/or acute physiological issues.

“There’s so many people falling in our age group, there are so many seniors falling and they need balance and strength, so there’s so many reasons to have a class for seniors,” Wilkinson said. “I’m a senior, so it’s easier for them to associate with me because I know what they’re talking about when they complain. I have that medical background, so that helps a lot because I talk about the muscles we use and why we use them and what needs to be stronger and why, and balance is our biggest issue.”

Wilkinson’s classes primarily focus on balance, muscle strength and stretching through a variety of exciting movements and exercise regimens.

Exercises range from walking around and high-fiving fellow participants to lifting small weights to the rhythms of music.

“The key things are for balance and muscles and strengthening, and right now there’s a big research that’s being done on body core,” Wilkinson said. “If you don’t have a strong body core, then your shoulders won’t be strong, your arms won’t be strong, your legs won’t be strong, so we’ve been doing a lot of core exercises here lately. That’s a good start to get us strengthened. Seniors sit, and so their hamstrings get tight, there’s all sorts of reasons ... being in front of the computer for hours and hours, TV for hours and hours, so all those muscles you don’t use, they sit and get tight.”

Roger Schupp is an avid golfer and uses the class to stay in shape.

“Well, for me, especially, I love to play golf so I need to stay loose,” he said. “So in here, she works everything from the top of your head to the tip of your toes, walking, moving, turning but nothing heavy — just casual. Things that would make your body work better each and every day and keep your blood flowing well, so that’s why I’m in here to stay fit. We do a lot of stretching, moving our arms up and down, just around the waist and things like that that keep you mobile. We stiffen up as we get older.”

Schupp’s wife, Marlene, also attends the class to help with arthritis. She enjoys the fellowship with other Villagers.

“I have a lot of disabilities like arthritis and all that stuff and without it, I would be a pole at worst,” she said. “She hits every single joint, every single muscle in your body moving in every single class — that’s what I like about it. You feel a lot looser when you get out of here.”

Wilkinson also suffers from minor arthritis and utilizes many exercises to help relieve pain and loosen joints.

“We do a lot of joint movements because arthritis stops us from using our joints, so you’ll see us doing flexion and extension with wrists and legs,” she said. “Any joint needs to be exercised. A lot of people got arthritis in their hips, so we worked on that, we work on everything. We’ll do some walking and some heel slapping — proprioceptive input into our feet gives us balance, so we need to feel, we need to know where our body is in space.”

The class meets at 10 a.m. Tuesdays at FBC. For more information, call Wilkinson at 865-657-3699.

“This class, we will try and continue,” she said. “We pretty much have the same people, it’s a small class. I like it small because I can watch what their feet are doing. ... Anybody can come. That’s what I love about this church is anyone can come to anything.”