At 75, the Twin Cities area fitness instructor is a movement motivator

At 75, the Twin Cities area fitness instructor is a movement motivator

An 82-year-old woman who has been diabetic for 20 years credits the class with stopping her from taking insulin. A 72-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease said his balance had improved dramatically. Others say they avoided knee surgery, controlled their osteoporosis or stopped taking steroid injections for back pain.

Thanks to the class, Bonnie Resig said she felt as good at 75 as she did as a high school cheerleader.

“I don’t know if I can do a flip anymore,” she said. “But I can move and dance.”

Exercise is good for you, as everyone – including those who live under rocks or have just arrived from Mars – knows by now. Especially for the elderly. Numerous studies show that physical activity can help protect against heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia and certain types of cancer. It is associated with improved mental health and quality of life.

The only hard part is, well, doing it.

That’s why Anne Tudor’s ForeverWell class for older adults at the Ridgedale YMCA in Minnetonka is so popular. Participants, who range in age from their late 60s to mid-80s, say the instructor draws them in.

“Anne is my inspiration – you want to go, go, go when she does,” Don “Punch” Benson said. After placing stents 30 years ago, Benson began fitness classes. These days, he runs a hobby farm. “If I hadn’t taken this course, I wouldn’t have been able to do half of what I do at 80.”

Thin and 75 years old, Tudor is an excellent advertisement for the benefits of physical activity. She often calls exercise “medicine.”

“I saw the results and I saw the health issues,” Tudor said. a resident of Wayzata. “People get stronger, people have better posture.”

But it is for Tudor instruction that many participants say they attend.

“I love her sense of humor, she brightens my day,” said Sharon Rescorla, 71, who has osteoporosis. “It kept my numbers from getting worse.”

“I plan my life around Annie,” said Sandy Harvey, 68. “She’s my exercise goddess.”

Highest Draw

At one of Tudor’s classes about a week ago, more than 50 people filled the gym, moving steadily to music ranging from the 1920s standard “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?” to 1967’s “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison.

Her classes attract more participants than any other class in the Y group for all ages, said Molly Skoro, Y ForeverWell coordinator. Before COVID, attendance ranged from 70 to 100 and “parking was an issue,” she said.

The Y attempted to remedy the problem by scheduling a second ForeverWell course with a different instructor. It didn’t work – people kept enrolling in the Tudor course.

“People came from New Hope Y and Southdale Y because they heard she was a great instructor,” Skoro said. “People told me they would set alarms on their phones so they knew to register so they could get in.”

In the classroom, Tudor stands in front of the group, calling out instructions: “Two steps to the left! Two steps to the right! Work your inside legs! Strong middle! Kick! Get back on your toes!” “

She performs every move (upside down, acting as a mirror image for the class) with more vigor than most – legs kick higher, arms swing wider, punching the air. She offers a running monologue that some find all the more charming as she comes from England.

“Sometimes I say, ‘Can we have an interpreter?’ because no one understands me,” Tudor joked. “I never stop talking to them. I constantly tell them and remind them, ‘How’s your posture? Are you tucking in your abs? How are your legs feeling? To not do that, walk and smile. ‘”

Most students’ movements were smaller than Tudor’s, their strides shorter, their kicks lower, their flailing arms less robust. But aside from quick water breaks, they kept moving for an hour of warm-ups, aerobics, weightlifting, balance and stretching.

“She’s tough,” said Julie Appel Duncan, a ForeverWell coordinator who helps with the class. “It can be difficult.”

It’s hard work, agreed Jane Laurance, 82. “But you don’t look at the clock.”

Builds trust

More than a third of people over 65 do not engage in any physical activity, the highest percentage of any age group. Aging leads to loss of muscle strength, weight gain, pain, and disease that make movement more difficult. But fitness can improve at any age.

“So many people think, ‘Oh, I’m at my limit, I’m not going to progress in strength or balance; I’m always going to hurt,'” Skoro said. But Tudor helps build student confidence, she said. “She believes in everyone, and because she believes in them, they believe they can do it too.”

“I always tell them age is just a number and you do what you can,” Tudor said. “If you don’t want to go too high, slow down a bit. Listen to your own body.”

Tudor’s classroom is one of the few places where you will hear people competing to look older. “I’m 82 and a half,” said one woman. “I’m 83, almost 84,” said another. “I’ll be 83 before she turns 84,” said the first.

Hans Gasterland gave his age as ’69, almost 70′ and then admitted his birthday wasn’t until February.

“I’ve already adopted 70 as my identity,” he said happily.

Social aspect

Attendees who brag about their enjoyment of the class might not realize that Tudor says she needs it as much as they do.

“My life has been pretty tough lately,” she said. “It cheers me up.”

Tudor’s husband, John Tudor, a former professional footballer in England, suffers from dementia and cannot be left alone. Three mornings a week, their son, Jonathan, comes from Belle Plaine to replace her so she can teach the class. But he is also a football manager with a full life. Thus, the rest of Tudor’s time is spent as John’s carer.

The couple moved to Minnesota nearly 30 years ago so John could coach. Tudor worked as a caretaker for their building. Having always loved to exercise – “I was the champion of my school,” she said – she took fitness classes. Eventually, she got the idea to start teaching them herself. She acquired the qualifications and became an instructor around 2004.

Many Tudor students started in the years that followed and formed friendships. They get together for coffee, to celebrate birthdays, to meet up for happy hours.

“The social aspect is very healthy as you get older – it can get a bit lonely if you’re alone,” said Eunice Schutt, 70, a longtime participant.

“It’s really fun to see how they take care of each other,” Skoro said.

“I really don’t like missing classes,” Schutt said. “We all leave smiling and so happy to have come.”

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