Exercise classes at Blythe Family Fitness augmented by grant for equipment.

Retired educator Steve McPherson, 94, Pratt, values his mental and physical health, so having a place to go for regular exercise of the brain and the body is important. 

"Blythe Family Fitness goes the extra mile for us seniors," McPherson said. "I like coming here, not only for the physical exercise but also for the socialization and brain exercises at the start of each session."

Senior exercise sessions, billed as the Retirefit program, have been held three times each week from 9 to 9:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, for more than a decade at Blythe Family Fitness 219 West 5th Street. Certified trainer Leon Kaufman leads the popular classes, assisted by Sue Mathe.

Kaufman said more than 50 participants regularly take part in the exercises which focus on core-strengthening with the use of resistance bands on Mondays, weighted medicine balls on Wednesdays and weighted bars on Fridays.

"Everyone works at their own pace," Kaufman said. "We stretch and walk, and sometimes team up with partners. It's a relaxed and beneficial program to help keep people moving in mind and body."

The primary financial support for the Retirefit program is provided by Parkwood Village of Pratt, a licensed assisted living facility, in the amount of $6,000 annually.

“We want to ensure that the class remains free for any seniors in Pratt County who wish to attend,” said Parkwood Village Residence Director Sharon Will. “We’re really just happy to do this for our community and the seniors who live here.”

Blythe Family Fitness recently received a $500 grant from the South Central Community Foundation that will be used for the purchase of additional Retirefit equipment.

"We appreciate the foundation's investment in the health and wellness of the citizens of Pratt County," Kaufman said. "These funds have allowed the purchase of equipment that we would otherwise have to do without."

Seniors like McPherson prefer to use medicine balls in their exercises because they are easier to hold than dumbbells, barbells or kettle-bells, but can still be used to target all the major muscle groups.

“They come in weights from two to 30 pounds,” Kaufman said. “We’ll be using the SCCF grant to purchase more eight-pound balls which we need because the seniors are graduating up from the two, four and six-pound balls as they develop more core strength.”

Retirefit classes are free to Pratt-area citizens over the age of 60, and Kaufman said there is always room for more participants.

“It’s really great to see our seniors getting stronger and developing core strength,” Kaufman said.