New Year’s Fitness for Seniors: Helping Seniors Stay Healthy & Happy

    By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science and Technology

    Health and fitness goals top the list for New Year’s resolutions. And for a group of seniors at Mercy Hospital South in St. Louis, the commitment began long before 2023. Several participants in the Senior Strength and Balance class have been attending that class and other fitness classes offered at Mercy for many years.

    Leo Stroup, age 84, has been attending fitness classes at Mercy Hospital South for almost 15 years.

    “I had a little bout with depression. And when I got through all the counseling, they suggested that I come and do these. I started here doing tai chi and it kind of evolved,” said Leo. “I’ve developed neuropathy in my legs. So, the doctors tell me they can’t fix the neuropathy, but you can strengthen your muscles in your legs.”

    The Senior Strength and Balance class is also helping 88-year old Joann Watts, who has been attending the class for almost seven years.

    “It keeps me moving. I probably would be in a wheelchair if I wasn’t coming here!” Watts laughed.

    “I think getting in the door is the hardest thing that you can do because people will sign up for classes, and this has happened multiple times, and they won’t come,” said Jean Curtis, Fitness Instructor for Mercy Hospital South.

    Curtis said she can modify exercises for the individual based on their ability and situation. She feels the Senior Strength and Balance class has far-reaching benefits.  Each year, millions of older people — 65 and older — fall. According to the CDC, more than one out of four older people fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and older.

    “That’s what we’re trying to stop right now and we’re trying to strengthen their bodies, especially their core muscles in order to keep them healthy and standing on both feet,” said Curtis. “You have to be able to support yourself. So, we work on exercises where you actually have to be strong enough in the core to catch yourself if you start to fall. So that’s why we strengthen the body and use your arms and your hands, in case you do fall.”

    There’s another reason why the group attends the classes week after week, for years now! Participants say they have become friends.

    “We have so much fun,” said Curtis. “What they learn here even helps them set goals at home.”

    “It’s a great group of gals,” said Sally, a participant for 13 years. “I mean, we’re not only exercising, we have fun.”

    When Sally was asked about Leo’s role in the class, she responded, “Oh, he’s a riot! Leo is wonderful. He fits right in with us (gals).”

    “I’ve been the only man in this class for a few years now,” explained Leo.

    Leo wants to encourage more men to join the Mercy fitness classes.

    “I just need to tell them, get off your butt and get out and do it,” said Leo.

    Mercy fitness classes for seniors may be the perfect way to make good on a New Year’s resolution.

    “It’ll keep you healthy and happy,” said Joann. “You have a different attitude when you’re with people. It’s great!”

    To register for fitness classes at Mercy Hospital South, you can call 314-525-4002 or register at