The below article originally appeared in The Oklahoman.
Betty “Toots” Fisher was more than surprised to hear boxing was being added to the activities lineup at her retirement community.
“I could not believe they were going to offer a class like this for — I don’t want to say ‘old people’ — for this age group,” Fisher said. But her daughter encourage her, “Mom, do it. You’ll like it.”
That was about a year ago. Today, Fisher is one of five residents — all north of 80 — who show up with boxing gloves Monday and Friday afternoons in the fitness center at Concordia Life Care Community.
“It’s the best,” she said. “We have a lot of fun.”
The fun is as important as the fitness to Chris Coleman, wellness coordinator at Concordia, 7707 W Britton Road.
“For any of the classes, it should be something you want to come to. You’d miss it,” Coleman said.
The benefits of the class are many — social, physical and mental, he said.
Fisher said the participants learn how to place their feet for balance, how to take a step after a stumble and not fall.
“Balance is important,” said Dovie Caspar. “And anxiety, it’s good for that.”
Coleman leads the class through stretches and a warmup on the speed bags before they put on the gloves and meet in a circle.
“We’ll throw some punches — not at me, just the air,” he instructs. “Left foot, right hand. Other left foot.”
Humor accompanies the hard hitting at the heavy bags.
“You’re going to do two punches with the left hand, followed by a cross punch with the right,” Coleman tells the group. They punch to the rhythms of “Rock and Roll All Nite” by Kiss and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”
The group finishes the workout with more punching while seated — one knee raised or marching in place.
When Coleman says, “That’s good for today. Let’s get the gloves off. They’re hot.”
Caspar announces, “I’ll go drink a gallon of water.”
“I come in here feeling one way and go out feeling better,” said Robert Quatro. “I found out I’m not as coordinated as I thought.”
He is working on that in other fitness classes, too. Quatro said he never boxed before, but had some martial arts training earlier in life.
“Combining both, you can be fairly dangerous,” he joked. “I hope I’m stronger than these 90-year-old women. I’m only 85.”
The boxers razz each other a lot, said Ramona Duff. She comes for the camaraderie and to stay active.
“I take every exercise class they have here,” Duff said.
Being active into your 90s, doesn’t just happen. “You get there by habits through the years,” Coleman said.
Trying new things and seeing improvement motivates the residents, he said.
“I was so bad,” Fisher said, indicating the speed bag. “You have to get the rhythm. Until you make that circle, it won’t go right.”
Clyde Buchanan credits Coleman for the progress the group has made.
“The coordination, Chris does a great job with that,” Buchanan said. “We’re very fortunate to have Chris as the instructor.”
In addition to the Boxing for Better Balance class for residents only, Concordia offers Rock Steady Boxing for anyone with Parkinson’s disease at 3 and 4 p.m. Wednesdays. Which session participants attend depends on their level of activity.
Concordia’s Rock Steady Boxing program is one of nine in Oklahoma and more than 800 around the world. The program is designed to improve the mobility, balance and strength of people fighting Parkinson’s disease. “The motto is ‘Fight Back,'” Coleman said.
Parkinson’s patients who want more information can go to Concordia.RSBaffiliate.com or call 405-720-7200.