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Silver Sneakers

Seniors regain fitness, lose weight

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Silver Sneakers

Elsie Pegis, 84, works out. See additional photos on Page A8.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED April 29, 2013 1:12 a.m.


No one will accuse Ken McIntosh of being a man with no rhythm.

His New Balance tennis shoes bounced to the beat playing overhead – and his body followed – as the 74-year-old former newspaperman led the Silver Sneakers through their warm-up.

“Welcome. Glad to see everyone,” he bellowed over Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” – the opening song to this hour-long workout at California Total Fitness.

“Now let’s get our cardio going. Step. Step. Step.”

Only he’s late to this dance party, because the ladies of Silver Sneakers have already begun to boogie and shake.

Minutes before the class, while McIntosh searched a stack of CDs, Elsie Pegis captured everyone’s attention with a Salsa in the first row. The 84-year-old has the spunk and energy of a 25-year-old – and could probably dance circles around one, too.

“I love dancing, especially Latin dancing. But I lost my dance partner,” she says referring to her late husband Manuel.

Instead, Pegis and the women of Silver Sneakers find community and fitness every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at California Total Fitness.

The class incorporates low-impact exercises, utilizing bungee bands, light weights, chairs and music. McIntosh, a certified instructor for the past five years, has develops workout that the women can take home.

Most just save their energy for class, though.

“It’s a program for the senior citizens. They don’t jump around or hop around, because they can’t,” California Total Fitness manager Steven Zakaria said. “They come in and feel comfortable with each other. They’re in the back room training; they leave together and they get a hold of each other (outside of class).”

Pegis began attending Silver Sneaker workouts in the Bay Area in 2008. She now resides in Woodbridge Del Webb and is a regular in McIntosh’s classes.

She is indebted to Silver Sneakers.

The class helped her recover her strength following an angioplasty five years ago. She also suffers from a coronary artery disease, which has been neutralized by exercise.

“When I started with Silver Sneakers, I couldn’t lift a weight,” she said. “I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t exercise. I slowly built my strength back up. I don’t know what I would have done without Silver Sneakers.”

Look at her now.

On Thursday morning, she stayed in perpetual motion. If McIntosh called for a set of eight leg lifts, Pegis performed 12. When the music skipped or the group paused to catch its breath, Pegis did not.

She filled the breaks with dance – from her arms to her hips to her feet.

“I have to keep exercising,” she said. “I exercise five days a week.”

The results have been stunning. She’s lost more than 25 pound through Silver Sneakers and developed an insatiable appetite for the gym. She also works out at the facility at Del Webb.

Joanne Harcharik and Debbie Rudolph aren’t as fanatical, but they are just as loyal to Silver Sneakers.

Harcharik, 65, retired from the United States Postal Service, but didn’t want to let go of the cardio the job provided. So she joined the gym and convinced Rudolph – her roommate and the youngest in the bunch at 61 – to do the same.

Rudolph has had both hips replaced. She says Silver Sneakers has helped fill the void of physical therapy and rehab.

“It keeps me moving. It keeps us all moving,” Rudolph said. “I’m lazy. I hate exercising, even though I’m the youngest one in here.”

Yet, she keeps coming back. They all do. McIntosh averages about 10 women per class, and their bonds extend beyond the mirrored walls of the studio.

The group meets once a month for lunch or a BBQ dinner, and McIntosh and Harcharik cycle together.

“I enjoy these ladies,” said McIntosh, a pressman for the Oakland Tribune for 32 years. “I enjoy helping them workout.”

Perfect rhythm.

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