The Fit & Strong! fitness program launched this past fall for older adults brought together two of Dr. Kimberly Murphy’s favorite things — helping Augustana students learn and bringing them together with community members.
“It’s fed my soul for that, for really helping the community,” said Dr. Murphy, associate professor of biology and director of Augustana's Center for Advancement of Community Health and Wellness.
Four Augustana students began teaching Fit & Strong! classes at the Moline Activity Center in September. The student instructors completed 10 hours of training for the evidence-based, 12-week fitness program created by the University of Illinois Chicago.
Recent grant-funding for licenses and equipment purchases has allowed program access to expand across the state of Illinois. Moline Activity Center participants pay $23 to become members of the center, and there is no fee for the Fit & Strong! course.
Dr. Murphy said she was thrilled with the field experience opportunity for Augustana students and that the center’s staff and members welcomed the students so enthusiastically.
Class participants engaged in 60 minutes of movement and 30 minutes of education. Last fall the Moline class was held on Tuesdays and Thursdays with 11 participants. Dr. Murphy said the class can accommodate up to 20 participants, and she hopes the upcoming spring semester classes attract more attendees.
“The class focuses on movement,” she said. “The low-impact approach helps those with osteoarthritis, joint pain or other conditions that can make taking up a traditional exercise routine challenging.”
The initiative is tied to the Quad Cities’ Community Health Assessment, which identified individuals impacted by diabetes, obesity and other health conditions.
Peyton Heisch, a 2023 Augustana graduate, is the sustainability manager for Augustana’s Upper Mississippi Center for Sustainable Communities and the Center for Advancement of Community Health and Wellness. She has enjoyed engaging with class participants. Many of them are female and have reflected on which athletic activities they were and were not permitted to do in their younger years.
Heisch said she loves hearing about the participants’ progress. “They’ll come in and say, ‘I walked a mile today because I was inspired by you all.’”
“It’s important that the participants are relaxed and feel comfortable taking part in the class,” she said. “Course instructors can make adjustments to exercises and attune the class to their needs.”
Student leaders typically spend an hour on course preparation every week, in addition to the time leading the class. There was a learning curve to achieving the program’s goals in the allotted time, Heisch said, but the students figured it out.
“Getting to be around community members has given me excitement about getting older and going through life,” she said. “Nothing is perfect, you just keep going. The participants are the most inspirational part.”
Junior psychology major Jaclyn Schmidt was astonished by how much she has learned and gained from the experience, both in serving as an instructor and in the relationships she’s formed.
“My favorite part from the program has been seeing the progression of people's fitness and their successes,” Schmidt said. “It has been so rewarding to be part of making wonderful improvements happen for those in the Quad-Cities community.”
Schmidt said the experience has also changed how she views the benefits of fitness.
“Not only have I learned the many benefits that being consistent with your fitness journey can grant, I've also seen how the benefits come full circle in enhancing people's lives,” she said. “I truly look forward to conducting the class again next spring.”
Those interested in signing up for the next Fit & Strong! session should contact Peyton Heisch, 309-235-9955.