Stretch and Walk Into Spring With AARP Pennsylvania's Fitness Classes

Posted on 02/28/23 by Cristina Rouvalis

Megan Sicheri puts a few twists into her yoga classes, figuratively anyway.  

Take the Downward-Facing Dog pose. Instead of folding her body in half with both her hands and feet on the floor, Sicheri sits in a chair to demonstrate a gentler version. Her bare feet planted on a purple mat, her hair in a high ponytail, she pushes her hands out in front of her and says, “We’ll round through the spine a little bit and look down at the floor.”  

Several hundred AARP members and others around the country follow along from their homes during a weekly Thursday session hosted by AARP Pennsylvania.  

Introduced last summer, the Yoga and Mindfulness series was so popular that it continues in 2023 as part of a lineup of healthy living programs that AARP Pennsylvania offers to keep people over 50 moving.  

The yoga classes are designed to be equally suitable for people with disabilities and those without. For example, Sicheri demonstrates three different versions of Downward-Facing Dog—seated in a chair, leaning against one and then the traditional pose on the floor. She urges participants to do whichever version feels best. To sign up, go to aarp.org/yogamindfulness.  

Sicheri, a cofounder and director of programming at the nonprofit Open Up (open-up.org), based in Pittsburgh, also teaches deep-breathing techniques, so the participants can practice mindfulness.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says even moderate exercise can pay big dividends for older adults. Regular physical activity increases the likelihood that people can live independently and lowers the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and other conditions. It can also reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress. 

Keep moving

Another popular offering, Moving with Milly, also continues in 2023. The weekly Monday Zoom call attracts about 350 participants from around the country and even a few overseas.  

 The star of the show is AARP volunteer Milly Laible, 71, a retired hairdresser and Bethlehem resident whose surprise success as a fitness phenomenon was featured in the AARP Bulletin last year.  

To keep her classes fresh, she has introduced new upper-body and lower-body movements, including moves aimed at helping prevent falls. To sign up, go to events.aarp.org/MovingwithMillyClasses2023

AARP Pennsylvania has also offered some in-person exercise events that it expects to expand on this spring. 

In Pittsburgh, AARP joined with the Allegheny Land Trust for a series of walking tours last fall. “They allowed people to get moving while exposing them to the beauty of vibrant public spaces,” says Colleen Cadman, AARP outreach and advocacy director in Pittsburgh.  

Cheryl Lenhart, 70, of Green-tree, enjoyed hiking around the site of the former Churchill Valley Country Club and learning about conservation efforts there. “It was so informative,” she says. “Sometimes it can be boring walking alone.” 

Whether it’s a group activity outdoors or virtual yoga, the important thing is to keep moving, Sicheri says. “We work on that in a gentle and accessible way.”

Cristina Rouvalis is a writer living in Pittsburgh.

Yoga: Beginner Down Dog

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