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Get moving Fitness instructor takes her show on the road to South Greengate Commons

Mary Pickels
| Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, 8:57 p.m.
Flex Fit participants exercise their way to good health and fun at South Greengate Commons in Hempfield.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Flex Fit participants exercise their way to good health and fun at South Greengate Commons in Hempfield.
Flex fit instructor Roxanne Dreher leads Westmoreland County Housing Authority residents through their paces.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Flex fit instructor Roxanne Dreher leads Westmoreland County Housing Authority residents through their paces.
South Greengate Commons residents work their abs with leg lifts during a Flex Fit class.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
South Greengate Commons residents work their abs with leg lifts during a Flex Fit class.
South Greengate Commons residents celebrate one year of Flex Fit classes with instructor Roxanne Dreher.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
South Greengate Commons residents celebrate one year of Flex Fit classes with instructor Roxanne Dreher.
Standing or seated, these Westmoreland Housing Authority residents stretch and bend their way to fitness, while having fun.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Standing or seated, these Westmoreland Housing Authority residents stretch and bend their way to fitness, while having fun.

As Roxanne Dreher fired up her cellphone play list, a baker's dozen of women in the South Greengate Commons community room began smiling, tapping their toes and singing along to the music.

"Happy birthday!" Dreher, 60, of Hempfield shouts.

"Flex Fit is one," she says, beaming.

A senior fitness instructor, Dreher introduced the exercise wellness program to residents at the Westmoreland County Housing Authority site last year as a pilot.

The class has since expanded to an additional nine elderly and disabled communities throughout the county, administrators say.

"I bring the gym to them," Dreher says.

"This has been a great addition. (Dreher) actually brings to the table a high level of enthusiasm. ... She's fantastic," says Michael Washowich, authority executive director.

"They inspire me more than I teach them," Dreher says.

The authority initiated a wellness plan last year, says Lynn Wackenhuth, authority manager/property manager.

"Fitness is so huge. People are managing chronic illnesses here," she says.

A former Curves instructor, Dreher developed an outline for the program and now works on a weekly basis with residents, modifying exercises for any ability, including residents using walkers or wheelchairs.

"Whatever Roxanne does she modifies down to all of those levels," Wackenhuth says.

Exercise helps to engage both mental and physical skills, she says.

"If you are flexible, that takes care of balance, coordination and your muscles are in shape to handle all those things," Wackenhuth says.

The National Institute on Aging agrees.

Recent Flex Fit participants are noticing benefits from increasing their activity. They also say they are having fun.

And so is Dreher.

"I am so blessed and so grateful you showed up. ... Do you know how many lives you have touched? If you didn't show up, this wouldn't have expanded," Dreher says.

"Part of the success is you are so happy and bubbly. I look forward to coming down and I feel better. I just enjoy it so much," says Marie Ruffin, 70.

As Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" played, the women stood and Dreher led them through breathing and stretching exercises.

A few followed along from chairs or while seated in wheelchairs.

"How good did that feel? Cardio work can be done this way," Dreher says.

As Katy Perry's "Birthday" played, the women marched in place.

Frank Sinatra serenaded them with "New York, New York" as they used colored bands to stretch their legs.

As some sang along to Leslie Gore's "It's My Party," they passed small, brightly colored balls over their heads and between their knees in a "basketball move."

They balanced the balls between their ankles during leg lifts.

"Use your abs to lift that ball up," Dreher says.

"Let's do 'goal post' arms — the Steelers are at camp," she says, raising her arms above her head.

For nearly an hour they kept moving, twisting their arms and bending down to touch their toes.

Incorporating elements of yoga and tai chi into her program, Dreher also gives residents exercises and charts to follow and challenges them to continue on the days there is no class.

"Once you try you can make all things happen. I was so happy to see them doing this. It's so beneficial to everyone. ... I'm living proof. I love this. She (Dreher) makes it fun," says Norma Wagner, 71, a Terrible Towel slung around her neck. "I need more of this exercise every day."

Liz Rowe, 74, says that after a few months of classes she noticed she was more flexible.

"I was able to bend down better. It gave me more strength and balance. ... I wish she was here twice a week," she says.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

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