Class for the ageless

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

“I wake up every morning and thank the Lord I am alive,” says 81-year-old Jean Elliott as she leads women in the step aerobics class she conducts three times a week from the wrestling room at Bayfield High School.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer


Step up. Step down. Step lively.

This step aerobics routine, at 140 to 150 beats per minute set to Latin music or oldies, is fairly typical. But the instructor is not. This class is led by 81-year-old Jean Elliott.

The participants keep the pace – mounting and dismounting from risers – for half an hour. Then, they do 15 minutes of stretching on the floor.

It’s the Watch Your Step class that meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s free and anyone is welcome, Elliott said.

“I’ve been leading the group for 11 years,” Elliott said before she put six exercise devotees through their paces in the wrestling room at Bayfield High School.

“I’ve been doing step aerobics for 17 years,” Elliott said. “I thought I was leading the class for a month when instructor Robin Duffy-Wirth wanted a break. But in the end she called and said, ‘I’m not coming back.’”

There can be as many as a dozen steppers on a given day. But this morning six show up.

Age doesn’t matter when you’re having fun, said Linda Pampinella. “Let’s say we’re 59 to 81.”

Besides Pampinella, the participants are Ellen Maxton, Betsy Romere, Fran Evans, Cathy Lee and Emily Norris. Lee has been in the class 14 years and Pampinella 13.

“We do a variety of movements,” Elliott said. “We’re trying to improve flexibility, balance and strength.”

Romere said Elliott is an example for the older set.

“She’s very active,” Romere said. “She takes a line-dancing class in Durango, and she hikes.”

Before Elliott arrives, Evans leads the group through 15 minutes of weight training with dumbbells.

Anyone is welcome to join the group, said Elliott, who leads weight training two days a week at the Pine River Senior Center.

Elliott has been active since she was a child in Kildare, Okla. She learned to tap dance at age 5 and either participated or taught the dance for 30 years.

In her working years, she was a substitute teacher in elementary and high school in Gallup, N.M.

Elliott said she tries to stay abreast of what’s happening in the fields of exercise and health. She displayed a newspaper clipping about the value of exercise in warding off muscle loss among babyboomers and seniors.

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