An exercise facility called Wellness Xpress has been located in Parkesburg for about four years, but the part that really has people talking has been going on for just over a year.Silver Sneakers, a national fitness program designed exclusively for older adults, is now taught at Wellness Xpress and is available to most local seniors at no charge.

Recently, Independence Blue Cross and Blue Shield has contracted with SilverSneakers for this area and will cover the program for eligible seniors.

Mary Rudolf, owner of Wellness Xpress, located at 4217 West Lincoln Highway, Parkesburg, said once seniors come out and try the class, they find that exercise enhances the quality of their entire life.

The Sliver Sneakers program focused on cardiovascular health, muscle strength, balance, coordination and conditioning.

Shirley McLucas, president of the Parkesburg Seniors, has been going to Wellness Xpress for a year and attends each of the three classes offered during the week. She said since beginning the class she has consistently felt more limber and has been able to get around better.

Connie Smith takes two Silver Sneakers classes each week. "In the spring I'm going to Kansas City for my granddaughter's graduation," Smith said. "I know there will be a lot of walking, so I need to build up my endurance."

She said the exercises can be difficult, especially when Rudolf is working out their arms with the resistance bands, but if they were easy she wouldn't need them.

While many of the participants have lost weight doing the program according to Rudolf, Kathie Coldren of Sadsburryville has a special case in which she was very sick before beginning the class and it has helped her to regain some of her lost muscle mass.

"It's a great program, wonderful actually," Coldren said.

Mary Ann Williams of Parkesburg has a health condition that causes circulation problems in her legs. Even though she cannot participate in the leg exercises, she still attends three times a week to work on her upper body.

The classes are entirely covered by Williams' insurance and she said it has helped with her arthritis.

The Silver Sneakers program uses a combination of seated exercises and standing exercises. Rudolf said a couple of the participants choose to skip the standing exercises and that it is perfectly okay.

The class uses dumbbells, resistance bands and exer-balls to assist in the exercises.

"Often I get in here tired and I walk out with vigor and vitality," said participant Veronicea Mon cuso. "I'm a dancer-an elderly dancer-and I come here to keep up my coordination. I hardly ever miss it; I just love it.

"How lucky we are to have somebody like Mary," continued Moncuso, who was born and raised in Parkesburg.

"Everybody says they feel better after taking this class," Rudolf said. "The difference that I see in them and the way they speak about exercise amazes me."

"Everybody starts at different levels, but they catch on fast," she continued. "It's a basic class that everybody can do. As they advance they can get heavier weights or change their resistance."

"The problem that I've been coming up with is that there are 400 residents in Parkesburg who are eligible for the program and I only have seven percent participation."

"We're trying to let seniors know that frailty doesn't come with age. If they exercise three to four times a week it really does make the difference in living a long, independent life."

Next month Rudolf will be visiting the Parkesburg Seniors' meeting to introduce her program and do a demonstration that will hopefully generate interest.

Rudolf said seniors without the insurance plans to cover the class can still participate with an inexpensive yearly membership.

The rate for seniors, which Rudolf said never increases, is $200 for the entire year. That cost covers the classes and access to the fitness center next door, which includes 10 hydraulic resistance machines plus several cardio machines as well.

The equipment adjusts to different levels of resistance so everyone can benefit from them. Wellness Xpress is open to everyone, even children. Starting in January, Rudolf will be beginning a community outreach program to encourage families to workout together.

"It saddens me to see an obese mother, and her kids are big too," Rudolf said. "Obesity is an epidemic. If the family gets moving as a whole, they can prevent the illnesses that obesity causes."

Other classes that she offers at Wellness Xpress include Line Dancing, Powersculpt, Step, B.L.T. (butt, legs, and tummy), Yoga, Kickboxing, and several others.

Participants in the Silver-Sneakers class have an extra incentive to attend-a free gift for every tenth visit. The class is held Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 to 11 a.m. The first class is always free and Rudolf encourages people to come and try it out.

Wellness Xpress will be having an open house on Saturday, Jan. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information call (484) 712-5106 or visit www.wellnessxpressonline.com.

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