PLATSBURGH – Fitness for seniors is Mary P. Breyette’s passion.

For the past 15 years, she has led the weekday program for Cornell Cooperative Extension Clinton County.

The coronavirus pandemic has not tripped him.

Breyette zooms in on participants, local, national and global and guides them through a range of courses including “Range of Motion”, “Growing Stronger-Strong Bones”, “Chair Chi”, “Growing Stronger / Balance” and another “ Range of Motion “classify.


“It has evolved, obviously,” said Cornell Cooperative Extension Clinton County executive director.

“Basically, we had a contract with the University of Vermont health care network to provide, not specifically for seniors, but mostly seniors, so fitness programming. Help people adopt healthier lifestyles. This is how it started.

The Senior Fitness program offered a variety of classes ranging from arthritis and range of motion to “Strong Bones,” a Tufts University osteopathy course that emphasizes strong bones, muscles and balance.

Breyette introduced “Chair Chi”, which was developed by Pat Griffith.

“I did this initially because we were looking to work with clients with COPD,” said Breyette.

“I didn’t get that contract in the end, and we actually use it as a day of rest on Wednesday between all of our exercise programs. It’s a class in mindfulness, breathing and gentle stretching.

Breyette also teaches a class limited to residents of Robert S. Long only.

“Every day we have a class from 9 am to 10 am,” she said.

“With the pandemic, it’s gone from in person to live streaming. We were able to do this because we have good collaborators. Really important. Senior Planet of the North Country, they now welcome us two days a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All of our courses are online, actually live online. It is not recorded.


Before the pandemic, Breyette taught a class two days a week at Senior Planet.

“The Office for the Aging has a contract called Senior Gym,” she said.

“So they financially support these programs through this contract.

“Senior Planet, they were my collaborators. We started by offering another class for free on their site for their participants. Now they host Zoom twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

CCE Clinton hosts classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“With the exception of Chair Chi, these are all evaluated programs, which is really important,” she said.

“Evaluated programs mean they have been tested. Research has been done. The results are what they claim to be. You get what you see. They are real and proven. We do not record any of these programs because they are rated, so I am actively engaged in my class.


During the pandemic, many people have zoomed out with so much screen time to connect with work, school, family and friends.

“We didn’t find that with this class,” she said.

“My participants say that we are a community. The first year it was all about physical health, my sports clothes, that’s where I can exercise. The second year was about mental health.

“Thank goodness you are here. You are the reason I get out of bed. You are the reason I get dressed in the morning. I feel that I am not alone. I feel like I am in a community.

Participants exchange weather reports in Hawaii, Costa Rica and Montreal.

“We have people from all over the world participating, but certainly from across the country in addition to our Clinton County residents.”

Senior Planet is a national program with a large network, but Breyette’s reach was extended by a friend who told a friend about it.

“At the height of the pandemic, this is how siblings and neighbors saw each other in person,” she said.

“I had Miss Irma and Miss Ada, the only time they got to see each other face to face was in Zoom class. They are best friends. I have my group from Florida that goes down every year, so they stay. engaged. “


Senior Fitness has grown from 2,000 participants per year to over 2,000 participants per month.

“Do you think it’s an impact? ” she said.

“Oh yes.”

Survey data was collected from 348 people who attend classes five days a week.

Breyette has a long history in physical education and health and safety.

“We talk about it, we all need it,” she said.

“Personally, I suffer from osteoporosis. I teach the class, and have been teaching it for years. So, can you imagine what I would be if I wasn’t?

Participants share information, become friends, support each other, and celebrate holidays and milestones such as cancer remission.

“We really engage in daily friendly conversations,” she said.

“Before and after class, not during class. Class is class. The course begins, the course is activated. I adapt the exercises in class to meet the needs of the students.

“Like Monday, our range of motion for the Arthritis Foundation class can be done standing. But I wanted to offer a class that anyone could do, so we offer this sit-down class. There are some who stand, but the majority of the class is seated.

Breyette adapts the exercises to the physical situation of the participants and offers suggestions.

As of Tuesday morning, she had 245 people in class.

“We always say that’s how you start slow,” she said.

“Don’t hurt yourself. We are really trying to individualize the class under the circumstances that we have.


The Eastern Adirondack Healthcare Network initially launched the program.

“I really can’t say enough for my staff, who are the Office for the Aging in County Clinton and Senior Planet of the North Country,” she said.

“Without these guys, you know… It was offered to members of our community. Our residents here are benefiting from it. Yes, we wish for more. It also ignites like fire. It’s free. You can come someday. You can come once a month. You can once a year.

Breyette takes attendance, and her regulars send her an email if they don’t go to a class.

“We are truly a community that is looking forward to everyone to be here,” she said.

“So when you’re not here, we miss you.” It has been a real saving grace. One of my participants emailed me and she had researched older people that older people were even more depressed and felt more isolated with Zoom. She said,

“Obviously they weren’t including your class. ” I love it. It’s like the best.

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