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Senior Fitness Classes and The Group Dynamic Effect

April 27, 2012

For about a year I have been teaching one class a month at the Hackettstown, NJ Senior Center. Each class I would get three or 4 of the women to come to the back corner of the facility where they had a place set aside to give my demonstrations.  Each week I would try to entice more of the group to come back to participate, and would always get the same response.  “I don’t want to” or  “I already did my exercises” were typical.

Now, keep in mind that every time I teach a class I learn from the seniors I teach.  In essence, I know what I hope they learn from me, and they teach me how to help them help them do it.

Today was a perfect example.  At the same Hackettstown center, as I was gathering the few ladies to come to the back corner, one women said, I want to stay right where I am.  I looked around, saw there was plenty of room to do the movements and said, “this is fine, let’s stay here”.  “Here” just happened to smack dab in the center of all the other seniors who had come for the days lunch.

I set myself up at the front of the room and told the group as a whole “you don’t have to participate, but you may like to watch what we do”. As I started to work with my small group of 4 on the standing balance and leg exercises, wouldn’t you know it, a  few more seniors stood up to try them out.

All the chatter in the room stopped as they watched the women follow along, and listened as I explained the theory and reasons behind what we  were doing.  As we moved from standing to seated exercises for the upper body a few more joined in. Even one of the men who never pay attention at this center, joined in.

A few exercises into the seated routine, I had about 90% of the room following along. Many were laughing and joking and enjoying the presentation. Even those who ALWAYS SAY NO were participating.

The dynamics of “keeping up with the Jones’s” seemed to be in full-bore effect. Some of the group started asking questions about certain movements. Others who said they could not do certain movements were doing them and three of the men were participating by the end.

A few even asked if I had a list of the exercises they could take home with them.

Now, had I moved to the back of the room, dragging my ladies with me, I would most likely still not have gotten any more of the group to participate. By staying within their line of sight, and letting them see how gentle the movements were, and that their peers were able to do and enjoy them, more and more of them became engaged.

Thanks to the one woman who started the idea of staying at “her spot”!   At the end of the session she said “that was great, let’s do it here again next time”.

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2 Comments
  1. Great post! Love this idea of the importance of group dynamic within exercise. We think that group exercise has a lot of benefits in itself, in that people can encourage each other, socialise while they exercise (without being distracting of course) and work as a support network for one another. Your idea to stay where the woman was standing, was really clever and a great, calm way of encouraging people to participate to their full ability in a class.

    Like

  2. Stan Cohen permalink

    I have found trying for force feed my ideas to seniors (and others) never works. Learning how to read the individuals in the classes and adjust to their needs on any given day is critical to being a successful teacher regardless of the subject.

    Like

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