Laughter came from the aerobic room in the gym, where about 25 women were on floor mats doing leg lifts as the instructor counted repetitions.
“Five, six, seven, 11 – uh, nine,” she said, bringing more laughter from the class.
The laughs changed to groans as Ruby Hamrick announced the next exercise.
“Flat on your back because now it’s toe-touching time,” she said.
The Senior Aerobics class meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at Riverview Park Activities Center. Women 55 and older do a 45-minute routine that was designed by founder Clara Johnson more than 20 years ago.
A longtime physical education teacher at North Augusta High School, Johnson now lives in a nursing home. The aerobics class continues her workout, which its members describe as stretching more than strenuous exercise.
“It keeps us limber. We do it so we will be able to move. Plus, we’re all like a big family. Nobody wants to miss,” said Tallulah Trimmier, who has participated for six years.
The family atmosphere also is part of the Silver Sneakers group that meets at the Family Y on Martintown Road and the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center in Aiken.
Both places offer a variety of exercise programs and training and cardiovascular equipment. The class that meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Family Y is made up of women, who’ve dubbed their exercise room “the estrogen chamber” because the men prefer working out on the equipment in the main gym.
“We have fun,” instructor Jenny Lou Jones said. “We ask if anybody has anything good to report, or if somebody’s going through something. People care if you’re here or not.”
The Family Y’s class features a routine that’s designed to be done sitting in a chair or standing. It includes a warmup, working with weights, resistance bands, a ball and then a cool-down, all to mood-appropriate music in front of a mirrored wall.
“I’m doing this for me, because I have arthritis really bad,” said Anne Diamond, who recently started the program. “Since I’ve started, I can bend my knee now, whereas I couldn’t bend it at all before.”
While the Family Y class does exercises – including sit-ups – seated in a chair or standing and holding onto the chair for balance, the Riverview class does a lot of its routine on padded floor mats. A couple of the Riverview members are unable to get up and down on the floor. During that part of the routine, they walk laps around the gym.
“As we get older, some of us have to drop some of the exercises,” said Hamrick, 77, who has been doing the routine regularly for 15 years. “I got down on my hands and knees at home the other day and scrubbed the floor. If I didn’t exercise, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
More energy, limber movement and well-being were the reasons given by participants for taking the classes.
“It’s good for my health,” said Deloris Runnels, who exercises five days a week at the Family Y.
The Riverview classes meet at 10 a.m. and are free. Silver Sneakers has various classes every morning, and members have use of the gym at the Family Y.
Fees are paid by most Medicare or health insurance policies, or are included in gym membership.