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AARP AARP States Georgia Health & Wellbeing

Benefits of Fitness Class Go Beyond the Physical

Juanesta Phillips, an Atlanta retiree, works out in her home during a Fitness Friday session led by DaShaun Johnson.
Photo by Melissa Golden

If you can do all the reps, great. If you can’t, that’s fine, too. You can stand during the workout, but being seated also gets the job done.

Through the end of the year, fitness instructor DaShaun Johnson is leading Fitness Friday—Mind and Body, a free online strength-training class for AARP Georgia members and volunteers that’s livestreamed via Zoom.

If you’re unsure that you’re fit enough, Johnson assures that the class caters to those of all physical abilities. “I always try to give people variations that they can choose that keep them in their comfort zone but also allow them to push themselves,” he said. “This is not a competition. My main motivation is to help create longevity and increase health and wellness.”

The 60-minute class, offered every Friday from 10 to 11 a.m., might help you shed a few pounds and tone your biceps. It’s also designed to keep your brain healthy by helping you manage stress, get a good night’s sleep and engage with other people.

During the class, AARP staff and volunteers provide tips, resources and a trivia session on brain health.

A chair is the only equipment you need. Light hand weights are recommended, but cans of vegetables or soup also work.

“We know people are looking for ways to help make it successfully through this pandemic,” said Hillary Johnson, outreach manager for AARP Georgia. “We thought adding this program that focuses on strength and core work can do wonders for our body and our mind.”

Boosting mobility

Strength training improves overall health, longevity and quality of life. Research indicates that muscle mass declines by up to 15 percent per decade in older adults, making them more susceptible to poor balance and falls.

People over 50 who start strength training have better mobility and are sharper mentally.

AARP Georgia partnered with Johnson, 37, of Jonesboro, because of his passion and commitment to helping older people get more fit. He began a body-sculpting program for DeKalb County adults in honor of his grandparents, who died in 2017. More than 200 people, many in wheelchairs, attended his free classes at a rec center gym.

“I decided to help other grandparents as if they are my own,” Johnson said.

After the pandemic hit, he began offering his fitness program on Facebook. “A lot of people were losing out on exercise and rehab,” he said.

Many were also bored, stressed-out and lonely. “The program gives them something to look forward to. They created a virtual community.”

Participants post comments, sharing how they’re doing and giving one another encouragement. “If someone is not feeling well, their virtual community will lift them up,” Johnson said.

Exercising with Johnson has helped AARP member Juanesta Phillips, of Atlanta, improve her health. The 61-year-old retiree said the program has accelerated her recovery after surgery.

And the benefits are more than physical. “It helps me get those endorphins going that calm me down and keep me from getting depressed,” she said.

Registration is required for each Fitness Friday session. Go to, call 866-295-7281 or email

Ann Hardie is a writer living in Atlanta.

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