Many people think that as we age, it is inevitable that we will slow down as well. One exercise class in Columbia is helping seniors stay active.

At the Charles R. Drew Wellness Center in Columbia, James Anderson teaches a Chair Aerobics class to encourage older people to stay fit. Chair Aerobics allows the participants to sit down while exercising if needed. This allows the class to be inclusive.  

Anderson is not your typical fitness instructor. He is a 68-year-old veteran who reversed his diabetes diagnosis by exercising and eating well.

“Within less than a few months, the doctor looked at me and literally wrote on a report that she’s never seen anyone recover like that. So I take no medication, and I’m very thankful it was the path to what exercise and diet and trust in God that got me free from that,” he said.

Now he wants to help other “seniors” in the community get their strength back. He said, “This is gonna help them become independent, it may just prevent them from going into rest homes.”

Anderson does not play music during his class.

“Let’s face it, they have four, five decades of music in them and do you know the different styles they want?” he asked. “Someone wants Sinatra, someone wants R&B, someone wants rock-and-roll and I can’t do them all.”

So instead, he sings, and counts Army cadence. He begins the class with a few rounds of “I Don’t Know But I’ve Been Told,” replacing some of the lyrics with “I am young and I’m not old,” and “exercising every day, that is how we stay this way.”

He continues singing through the class to keep the participants engaged. Judy Irvine, a class participant, said, “most of us are in our sixties and look at us. We’re youthful.”

Another participant in her 60’s, Janice Crummey said, “I feel so great since I’ve been coming, I used to just be sitting in the chair at home but now I feel so great.”

Now, James uses his success with exercise in his every-day life. He said, “If I see a setback in life I just think maybe that’s my opportunity to do something greater.”

According to Dr. Jason Stacy, associate medical director at USC, it is possible to decrease your Type II diabetes symptoms through exercise. 

“You can get to a point where you don’t need medication, you won’t need insulin,” said Stacy. “If we could package the benefits of exercise into a pill we as physicians would prescribe that to every single living person.”

After ending the class with a round of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” Anderson sent everyone home with a “go in peace.”

Anderson teaches Chair Aerobics every Tuesday and Friday at 9 a.m. at the Drew Wellness Center in Columbia.