Photo: SuperABLE Fitness participants go through stretching at the start of class at Longview Heights Baptist Church in Olive Branch. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)
Each Saturday morning during the school year, Eric Cook of Xpress Fitness in Olive Branch enters the gymnasium at Longview Heights Baptist Church in Olive Branch to lead a class.
The students he teaches are between 12-24 intellectual and developmental disabled people who have come as part of the Arc Northwest Mississippi’s SuperABLE Fitness program.
They come each week for an hour of stretching, exercise and fun.
Participants are there to stay mobile and healthy because their lifestyle a lot of times tells them to stay sedimentary instead, which Cook said is not a good thing.
“We’re working to make them healthier and more fit, balanced, coordinated,” Cook said. “It’s also for the parents to give themselves an outlet for health and wellness. Sometimes they don’t have a chance to get out of the house and focus on themselves, as well.”
Arc Northwest Mississippi Executive Director Rebecca Treadway said SuperABLE Fitness began when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and took hold.
“SuperABLE Fitness started in 2020 during the height of the pandemic as a way to encourage individuals to exercise and make mindful health decisions from the safety of home,” Treadway said. “Since that time, we have transitioned weekly to live exercise sessions. We love it when whole families join us for exercise fun. It is wonderful to watch participants gain strength and confidence week after week.”
Cook said the exercise program is a good complement to whatever therapy they may be doing.
“Being at home and a homebody, it’s hard to stay healthy, sitting around at home,” Cook said. “It’s also great for the mind and they gotta get their energy out somehow, so they can do that through the exercise. Over time, working on the coordination and being able to put certain things together is good for them outside of the home and school.”
Cook said he enjoys his “pupils” showing mood changes as exercise is great to improve moods.
The hour starts with some stretching and some light mobility work, Cook said. That is followed by exercises done for time and intervals. Some stretching at the end amounts to a cool down and Cook said breaks are interspersed during the class.
“We try to keep them moving the whole time, and pretty soon the time’s up,” Cook said.
For the teacher, Cook said he enjoys doing this class because it allows him to help people.
“It gives me super joy to help people out and see them improve,” Cook said. “Seeing the smiles on people’s faces, it’s hard not to be doing this.”
An extra benefit for those who come out are in prizes for exercising. Points are awarded for each hour of participation that can lead to gift cards, depending on the number of points they earn. If they sign up but can’t attend in person, they can also earn points by exercising at home and recording their time. A maximum of 10 points, or two hours, can be earned per day.
Parents are also welcome to come and exercise with their children at the class.
More information about the SuperABLE Fitness Program is available on the Arc Northwest Mississippi website.