GALVA — “OK, are you ready? Are you warm? Do you have your heart rate accelerated?”

Family and Consumer Sciences County Extension Agent Jana McKinney looks around the circle, checking to see if each member of the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy class is ready to proceed before leading the group in a series of exercises.

“We never thought we’d be lifting weights at our age,” class member LaJane Anderson joked.

Stay Strong, Stay Healthy is an eight-week program designed for older adults to regain strength, improve balance and increase flexibility.

“We’re all getting older and getting out of shape,” Anderson said.

At the beginning of the program, participants are evaluated to ascertain their current abilities.

“We do an assessment before and an assessment after to see their progress,” McKinney said. “We’re checking their balance and flexibility.”

McKinney guides the group through warm-up exercises, strengthening exercises and cool-down stretches.

“We use scarves to warm up and stretch our backs and arms to increase flexibility,” McKinney said.

No special workout gear is required for Stay Strong, Stay Healthy. Participants use chairs, hand weights and ankle weights in the exercises.

“They all started with no weight and then they gradually work up,” McKinney said.

Class members are encouraged to adjust their weights so that the exercises give them a workout, but are not unmanageable.

“Everybody’s responsible for challenging themselves,” McKinney said.

As the leader, McKinney also keeps on eye on how individuals perform the exercises, counting out loud as the group lifts and lowers their arms and legs.

“That’s really important; the form and the speed have to be done right,” McKinney said.

Stay Strong, Stay Healthy meets twice weekly for its hour-long program.

“While we may not lose weight, we can see how things get trimmer and leaner,” McKinney said.

“This is really a good motivator, to do this together,” class member Glenda Unruh said. “We’re all trying to make our evaluation at the end come out better.”

Those who complete the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy class often find they have more stamina — some say they are able to walk up stairs they previously could not climb without stopping halfway through.

“They’re finding that they’re more flexible and stronger,” McKinney said.

After the class ends, participants are encouraged to keep up the exercises at home.

“They can buy the weights from me at the end or purchase their own,” McKinney said.

Stay Strong, Stay Healthy is offered various times throughout the year. A participation fee of $20 is charged.

“I’d like to do more,” McKinney said.

For more information about Stay Strong, Stay Healthy, visit http://www.k-state.edu/staystrong or call 620-241-1523.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.