It feels more like a dance party than an exercise class, as the disco hit “Funkytown” blasts through the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center’s auditorium.
At just 8:30 in the morning, dozens of seniors are stepping, shuffling, and working up a sweat with Linda Bennett, who’s been teaching fitness classes at the center since it opened in 1984.
The song changes and inspires a riff from Bennett. “Here we go…burn, baby, burning calories is fun,” she said into her headset microphone as the students boogie on.
Fun is just one of the reasons seniors like Carol Brewer, 75, keep coming back to Bennett’s class. “I like the cardio and the camaraderie,” said Brewer, a Newhall resident. “My arthritis is getting better and I have more energy.”
According to the National Institute of Health, studies have shown that exercise provides many health benefits, helping with everything from arthritis, heart disease and diabetes to high blood pressure and balance problems.
Bennett, who is certified through the American Council on Exercise and CPR-trained, concurred.
“Your muscles and bones get weak with inactivity, which can make you start to lose balance,” she explained. “Exercise makes your bones and muscles get strong, which improves balance. We want to stay strong so we don’t break our hip or anything else.”
That’s also important for traveling, a favorite pastime of many seniors.
“You can walk cobblestone streets in Europe if you have strength and balance,” Bennett said.
Christina Morales, 72, of Canyon Country used to exercise during her time in the work force to relieve stress, but she had become a bit sedentary upon retirement.
During lunch at the center three years ago, Morales heard about Bennett’s classes and has been coming three times a week since.
“I got back my strength and stamina and I look good. For me it’s not just the physical or mental, it’s about the big C. Confidence,” she said. “The thing about aging and retirement is that you can decide not to do anything, stay at home, and not move a muscle, but I wanted a quality of life.”
Morales originally started with Bennett’s Sit and Be Fit classes, which are geared towards beginners. Shortly afterwards, Morales transferred to the Fitness Revolution classes.
During Fitness Revolution, Bennett provides three options so that everyone can comfortably participate, adding a faster pace or arm movements to the mix for those with more ability.
“It’s such a great program for all of us,” Morales said. “It’s always an adventure, because Linda changes up the class.”
Even after three decades, Bennett still clearly has a passion for teaching seniors about fitness.
“I love seeing the changes in my students, the mental and physical improvements after they’re here for just a short time,” she said. “They go from being inactive to doing things they never dreamed of. It’s just the biggest blessing.”
Both the Fitness Revolution and Sit and Be Fit class are offered every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning (8:30 and 9:30 respectively). The cost is $4 per class or $38 a month. All seniors are welcome. The Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center is located at 22900 Market Street, Newhall. For more information, call 661-259-9444 or visit www.scvsc.org