When Glenna Brown’s husband became ill, she found that regular exercise at a nearby studio helped her deal with the stress and remain strong enough to be a good caregiver.
When he died, Glenna (above, left) found more: a loving support group that helped her through her loss, and a new friend who was going through a similar experience.
That was Shirley Nunez, whose husband passed in 2020. The two became fast buddies, working out together, socializing, and even traveling.
“I saw Glenna working out and said, ‘I want to be like her,’” says Shirley (above, right). “She’s been my lifesaver and just everything.”
Their story proves the power of working out with other people at a studio or gym. Social support, accountability and friendliness are crucial for older people trying to get in shape or stay in shape.
A Circle of Reinforcement
After 50 or so, many people find their lives change in ways that can lead to isolation and loneliness. They might stop working. Children might be grown and far away. Spouses might be gone.
As we learned from the pandemic, group settings for fitness are ideal for breaking that dangerous cycle. They provide more ways to exercise and more ways to be social. And both those things improve our physical and mental health in countless ways.
The social component is big at Evolution Fitness and Wellness in Houston, where co-owner Jackie Bachmeier introduced Glenna and Shirley, knowing they had much in common.
“In the fall, we coordinated a group that travels to another town for a pumpkin walk,” Jackie says, giving just one example. “We had a group of ladies who booked an AirBnB, and several others have gathered at a member’s beach house for fun and relaxation. None of these relationships existed prior to them meeting and exercising together here.
“The sense of community is as vital as the exercise itself.”
Support Helps Build Positive Changes
For Glenna, 74, steadily building healthy habits – exercise, eating right — helped her lose more than 80 pounds. She’s committed to staying strong for her great-grandchildren. “I can get down on the floor and play with them. I can hold them, I can pick them up.”
For Shirley, who turns 65 in August, the exercise has lowered her pain, given her strength, and improved her posture. “It’s just been amazing,” she says. She credits working with a small-group trainer who offers guidance and correction on her form.
The pals motivate each other at the gym – and outside of it. They have turned their attention to “bucket list” items.
This year, they went to New York City together, a first for both, to see the sights.
“One day we walked 10 miles,” Glenna said, proud to be strong enough for such fun. “That’s not for the faint of heart.”
Next up? A Hawaii cruise in 2023.
You can’t stop this dynamic duo!
We believe in the power of friendship and social interaction, too. Come see for yourself what the right fitness class can do for you – in lots of ways! We are here to help.
Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.