Innovative fitness class helps seniors stay healthy

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Linda Kobrin has only attended two Senior Body Sculpting classes, but the 69-year old is already a believer.

"I love people, and I love exercise," Kobrin says. "I love being active."

She also loves the sight of more than 100 people her age doing crunches.

"So many seniors sit around and just do nothing, especially after you retire," Kobrin says.

The guy behind this class is Dashaun Johnson. 

They call him "The Guru of Abs."

And these seniors are some of his favorite fitness clients.

"It's like I know everybody," Johnson says. "I know them by face. I know exactly where they sit at.  I know who has limitations. I know this person's strengths."

At 35, he's decades younger than his students, but Johnson thinks he has found his calling.

"Honestly, I lost my grandparents about a year ago, both of them 30 days apart, and I was very close to them," Johnson says.

"It's amazing because with fitness being so big in Atlanta, the senior market is an untapped market.  And seniors are the pillars of our communities.  They're the rock of so many families."

So, 6 months ago, Johnson began Senior Body Sculpting at the Exchange Park Recreation Center in Decatur, and word got out quickly.

"We started at 9 people and today we had 115 seniors in here," Johnson says.

He's created a seated, all-comers workout, designed to meet clients like 70-year old Mary Gresham where they are on their fitness journeys.

"I like the way he teaches, you know, the count, the breathing," Gresham says.  "He also teaches us how to breathe, and lift weights."

Johnson says anyone can do this workout.

"There is no modification we cannot accommodate," he says.  "If you have an assisted walker, wheelchair, whatever you have, we can work around it."

Sitting up front, 47-year old Andrea Hawkins has been with the class since the beginning, battling back from difficult tumor surgery.

"It's been a long journey," Hawkins says. "I couldn't walk; I couldn't do anything. But, since coming here, like I said, he's helped me with my mobility, my strength. I'm able to do a lot more things now."

Barbara Floyd, who is 57 and retired after a 30-year career, likes the workout, too, and the fact it's free.

She also likes the result she's seeing.

"I went for my physical yesterday, and my waist size went from a 33 to a 27," Floyd smiles.  "So, I really see the difference in it."

Johnson says most seniors only need about 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day.

"But my seniors, we're going 45 minutes to 60 minutes, 3 days a week," he says.  "We've been rocking since October 2018 and we don't plan on stopping no time soon."

And when it's time to go home, Barbara Floyd says she feels good.

"Sometimes, I'm sore, but I know it's all worth it," Floyd says.

Andrea Hawkins says that feeling keeps her coming back.

 "I feel real vibrant and enthused," Hawkins says. "Like I can conquer the world."

The Senior Body Sculpting class is sponsored by the DeKalb County Department of Parks and Recreation.

It is free for DeKalb residents and is held every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Exchange Park Recreation Center at 2771 Columbia Drive in Decatur.