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Richard’s Almanac: Get moving, stay sharp

RICHARD LOMUSCIO PHOTO | Susan Binder preparing to lead a Zumba class at the American Legion Hall.
RICHARD LOMUSCIO PHOTO | Susan Binder preparing to lead a Zumba class at the American Legion.

Islanders ranging in age from their mid 40s to 80s feel very comfortable exercising in “Zumba Gold” classes offered at the American Legion Hall on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m. for $5.

Under the direction of certified fitness instructor Susan Binder, members of the class dance to a variety of music and enhance their balance and range of motion along with their agility, cardiovascular fitness and strength in general.

“It’s really about feeling good and relaxed, and we laugh a lot,” Susan said.

Some veteran exercisers tell me that this class helps keep their minds sharp since they have to remember some complicated steps.

There is also a great deal of socialization that goes on during Zumba class. Numerous studies on aging have shown that the more socialization individuals have, the longer they will live. I guess there’s something about being with others that gives us pleasure and strength.

When I asked Susan if she was nervous about working and exercising with older individuals, she said, “I am constantly monitoring the class and we take many breaks.”

She also said that from what she has observed, Shelter Island is a very fit and very active community.

“I always urge people to check with their doctors before embarking on any exercise program,” Susan said. She added that she tells students that if anything hurts, “don’t push it. The idea is to feel good in this class.”

There are about 15 to 20 students in the class and I noticed that they were all women.

I learned that men were welcome and I guess at times some have tried. I just could not see myself dancing around to the music.

Susan told me that men seem to prefer to get their exercise at the FIT Center at the school.

For less active individuals with disabilities, Susan is trained to offer a chair-based class much like the chair yoga that’s done with the Silver Circle at the Senior Center on Wednesdays.

When I asked Susan if she was a gym teacher, she said that she majored in fine arts and sociology at St. Lawrence University. She always liked exercise and over the years has gained experience in different exercises like Zumba and earned certification from the American Council on Exercise.

She describes herself as a summer kid who married an Islander and raised three children here. Susan told me that the children are out of the house now, giving her more free time. She’s finishing up a term on the Board of Education but is not going to run again. She also works from time to time at her husband’s business, Binder Pools.

I also hear that she’s a great chef and serves as guest chef at the Presbyterian Church dinners from time to time.