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With program names like Bed Sheet Body, Play Fit, and Drum Fit, she’s hoping to change the perception of, and thus increase participation in wellness programming. Shannon Denny Schmidt, fitness specialist at Monarch Landing retirement community in Naperville, is always looking for ways to recruit new enthusiasts. “It doesn’t always motivate them when we call it ‘exercise,'” said Shannon. “It’s sometimes a matter of changing the language. Some people will say they’ve hated exercise all their lives. And so, when we talk about it, they’ll shut down. But if you say something like ‘we’re doing a movement challenge’ we’ll get new people interested and more likely to join.”

In addition to changing verbiage, Shannon is also shifting the focus for those who abhor ‘exercise’. Rather than concentrating on cardio, respiratory, flexibility, and strength fitness, she’s emphasizing functional fitness to improve gait and balance. She explained, “A lot of older adults don’t walk correctly. Maybe they had a fall and became fearful and so take smaller steps, and the whole game changes. Our Walk This Way class has them practicing and becoming more efficient in their walking again. It can make a big difference,” she said. “When you throw balance into the mix, that attracts a lot of people. People will tell me they have bad balance. Usually, the problem is a lack of confidence in movement. I work to instill movement patterns they can practice to gain confidence which transfers over to better movement and lifestyle.”

Fun classes also inspire participation. Bedsheet Body offers components of both privacy and convenience. “Lynn McHale, a resident at Monarch Landing and I are doing videos of this routine that we’ll distribute to all of the residents. They can begin it while still in bed…they’re exercises to begin the day, starting before they even get out of bed,” Shannon said.

Play Fit, which has been introduced recently is earning rave reviews. “Playing relieve stress and brings a new level of cognitive performance. We’re playing recreationally but there’s a level of competition because it makes people come alive. We’ll do silly things like Simon Says or Hot Potato. It gets them all pumped up and also helps build relationships. We have a few new people participating who would never come to an exercise class, coming to play games,” she said. “Once they start, we’ve got them and they tend to sign up for other programs!” Monarch Landing has fitness classes for virtually every interest and ability level including Tai Chi, aquacize, yoga, and much more.

In Shannon’s endless drive to recruit more people into fitness programming, she’s always continuing her education and earning more credentials. Recently, she earned her certification as an Active Aging Movement Coach from SCW. (Sara City Workout). “My goal first and foremost is to keep learning. I want to stay up-to-date on the industry. I’ve got a great background, largely because I’ve been in the field 30 years, starting back to when Jane Fonda was wearing leg warmers. I’m fortunate to be able to go through each phase and apply my accumulated knowledge and experience,” said Shannon. “I also always want to be aware of anything I can add.”

Read in the Chicago Tribune.