Participants in a senior fitness class at the TCMH fitness Center in downtown Houston do leg-lifting exercises during a session last Monday morning.

A fairly sizeable group of Texas County seniors take it upon themselves to frequently get together in the name of staying physically fit.

At the Texas County Memorial Hospital Fitness Center in downtown Houston, center director Marlon Richardson hosts classes for seniors six times a week.

A total of close to 50 people – ranging in age from 55 to 93 – regularly participate, and anywhere from about eight to 20 join Richardson during each hour-long session for a series of exercises incorporating stretching, step platforms and weights.

Richardson said it’s all about increasing strength, flexibility and endurance.

“I even have them doing some kicks and Martial Arts,” Richardson said. “I’m big into that.”

Some participants have been attending classes since their inception about six years ago. Richardson, a Willow springs resident, said the atmosphere during classes in anything but serious.

“They’re always cutting up,” he said, “and everybody’s always giving everyone else a bunch of junk. Everyone likes having a good time, and if we can get them in here doing that, that’s all that matters.”

Due to the varying ages and personalities of class participants, choosing musical accompaniment can be a challenge. And as Richardson pointed out, some would rather just enjoy the silence, anyway.

“Sometimes we have it going and sometimes we don’t, because some people like it and some don’t,” he said. “But then, some like having a fan blowing right their face and some don’t, and some come in the morning and others come in the afternoon. Any time you get a group of 15 or 20 people together, you’ve got a mix.

“But everyone gets along pretty well.”

So well, that they do a lot more together than just meet for group exercise.

“We do socials and we get together at the park and other places,” Richardson said. “We get together about once a month and cook and play games. They’ve kind of made it into a club.”

Senior fitness classes are held at the TCMH Fitness Center every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

There is no charge to participate.

“The hospital lets me do this for free,” Richardson said. “It’s kind of a gift they give to the seniors as a way to show their appreciation for them.”

For more information, call Richardson at the fitness center at 417-967-1606.

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