FORTVILLE — They’re seated in a row, bent over in their chairs and reaching for their ankles.
This is not the warm-up. It’s the workout.
Each week, the Sit and Be Fit group gathers at Fortville Christian Church to follow along with a video in a seated workout.
“This exercise is to improve your posture and strengthen your back,” read the words on the screen introducing the next movement, extending arms out and overhead from a W formation.
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There are stretches, leg lifts, balance exercises and other moves. Nadine Beck has been doing them for eight years, and she said they’re helpful.
“Everything gets moved,” she said. “You get the same benefits (as a non-seated workout), I think.”
Julia Duzan agreed: “It works all parts of the body.”
While Evelyn Brown is showing the Sit to Be Fit video, and the group is exercising, her husband, Jerry, is walking laps at the church. She said he does the same when she’s at a Tuesday morning Bible study at the church. Jerry Brown estimates he is walking for about 30 minutes each week; he’s not sure how much ground he covers in that time, and he notes with a smile that the older he gets, the slower he goes.
But in the words of group member Shirley Shaw, “Any exercise is better than none.”
Beck, Duzan, Shaw and the Browns are among many Hancock Countians who head to churches every week not only for worship but also for fitness or wellness programs. For children, that often means playing in athletics leagues. For adults, the programs range from aerobics to Zumba, from men playing basketball to women beating plastic drumsticks to stay in shape.
“It’s kind of a weird thing, but it seems to be the ‘in’ thing to do,” said Dave Yount, director of recreation at New Palestine United Methodist Church.
The church has a fitness program taking place nearly every day of the week and a walking track that circles the top of the gym is open weekdays. Classes are $5 per session; open gym basketball is $3 when it’s in season.
Yount said Pound Fitness and Zumba toning seem to generate the largest class sizes, but the church also offers dance-oriented fitness classes and various levels of yoga.
Though the church’s youth basketball games include a brief video devotion the church has recorded on topics such as responsibility or forgiveness, Yount said there’s no devotional or time of prayer at the church’s adult fitness activities.
He estimated about 50 percent of those participating attend the church. Others come because they think the class is a good deal or they like the leadership of a particular instructor, he said.
Even with no overtly spiritual content in the class, he sees potential for spiritual progress. He said some of the instructors “are very Christian people,” and that’s evident to class members who get to know them while getting in shape.
The classes also give folks who might otherwise feel like outsiders a chance to meet someone who goes to the church; for church leaders, that’s viewed as the kind of ‘in’ that might bring someone to a worship service and expose them to the church’s ministry.
Also, if a person’s already been in the building for a class, “possibly they’ll end up coming to one of our services,” Yount said. “We don’t push it, but we let them know it’s available if they’d like to.”
In Fortville, the women gathered to stretch also see a spiritual side to what they’re doing: Staying mobile helps them to keep coming back to church.
“You want to take care of the body he gave you,” Beck said.
Have a resolution or an already established fitness goal? There may be a local church ready to help you reach it. Here are some of the wellness programs and classes available at area churches:
Jazzercise offers classes Mondays through Thursdays at Fortville United Methodist Church. Learn more about fees and class times at jcls.jazzercise.com/facility/jazzercise-fortville-united-methodist-church.
Men’s Over 35 Basketball meets from 7 to 9 p.m. Mondays at Heather Hills Baptist Church in Cumberland. Find out more at 317-894-7474 or www.heatherhills.org.
Pound fitness, Zumba, yoga, Dance Fitness, a walking track and other programs are available at New Palestine United Methodist Church. Browse the church’s listing in Church Notes (Page C2), or see www.npumc.com/ourministries/ and scroll down for a schedule.
Sit and Be Fit meets at 9:30 a.m. Thursdays at Fortville Christian Church.
Weight Watchers meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m. Tuesday at Brandywine Community Church, 1551 E. New Road. Information: 800-651-6000.
First Place 4 Health, a Christian weight loss and healthy living program, is not offered in Hancock County at this time. To find out about starting a group, or to join one of the groups closest to your zip code, go to www.firstplace4health.com.