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April 9, 2007
Sacramento State Bulletin

LIFE Center breathes new strength into lives

Photo: Helen Brown pumps paper at Sacramento State's Life Center
Helen Brown pumps paper at Sacramento State's LIFE Center

Helen Brown is smartly dressed in an aquamarine sweatshirt and matching hat. She stretches, flexes and moves as music fills the air. The song is Cole Porter’s “You Can’t Take That Away From Me” and the jazzy rendition serves as an anthem for all the participants working out in one of the senior fitness classes offered at Sacramento State’s LIFE Center, a program of the College of Health and Human Services.
This is an exercise class like few others. The average age of the women in the room is 85. They are fighting age and time and staying fit by taking part in a Balance and Fitness class with LIFE Center instructor Jana Allen, who calmly  helps the women work every muscle in the body.

“I have something for you,” Allen says.

“English toffee?”  Helen Brown asks.

“Free weights, you want two pounds or three?”


“I’ll make sure and bring my candy dish next week,” Allen promises.

Photo: Balance and Fitness Class marches to the beat
Balance and Fitness class marches to the beat

The rest of the group shares the laugh, non-stop conversation and obvious fun. They are all in this together. Outside the room, the women – Brown,  Marion Snuggs, June Pellinen and Margaret McCue – take slow and faltering steps. Two use walkers to move from place to place. Inside the LIFE Center they are a force; they move, bend and march to Allen’s orders, all the while sharing stories about housework, shopping and family.

“I love it,” June Pellinen says.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Margaret McCue says. “And our teacher is the best.”

“The main focus of the class is to make our participants strong and flexible,” Allen says. “Falls are devastating to older people. Weights and strength training help prevent falls so they can stay functionally fit and live a normal full life,” she adds. Allen utilizes free weights, rubber bands, chairs and even paper plates as strengthening tools.

Sacramento State’s LIFE Center classes are taught at a facility tucked away in the East Portal Park Clubhouse on Rodeo Way. The park and building are owned and operated by the City of Sacramento’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Photo: Instructor Jana Allen uses stretching bands for resistance training
Instructor Jana Allen uses stretching bands for resistance training

Allen is a Sacramento State alumnus, with a master’s degree from the department of kinesiology. She is trim and fit, her red hair pulled back from her face. She keeps a watchful eye as her class of four women works out. She is ready to step in if one of the women pushes too hard and looks like she might take a spill.

The LIFE Center’s staff teaches a variety of courses targeted for those age 50 and older. The wellness courses take place in the small facility nestled under the trees. It is flanked by a children’s playground and a bocce ball court. There are stretching and strengthening, balance and fitness and yoga classes, including one for participants with Parkinson’s disease.

“Studies show that yoga intervention provides a real benefit for participants with Parkinson’s disease,” says Susan McGinty, co-director of the LIFE Center. “Four of our graduate students from the Department of Physical Therapy and faculty from Physical Therapy and the Department of Kinesiology have conducted some of the studies.”

Sacramento State faculty and student involvement is important, and a key goal is to serve the community of seniors.

“We want to provide services for seniors and have a place where students and faculty can conduct research,” says McGinty. “This spring a graduate class in Recreation and Leisure Studies is developing a marketing advisory plan for us.”  And according to McGinty, more LIFE Center classes for the community will be added in the fall.

“I used to attend another yoga class,” offers June Pellinen. “I didn’t know what to expect here, and she pulls out some paper plates. I was moving the plates, waving the plates, going with the plates; I didn’t know what the point was. But later I felt better. It helped.”

“The blue and white paper plates, like the stretching bands and free weights, provide resistance and strength training,” Allen says. “Strength and flexibility is the focus. And there is room for more in the class.” 

Photo: Marion Snuggs has a firm grip on being functionally fit
Marion Snuggs has a firm grip on being functionally fit

“Gentlemen are welcome,” the group confirms.

The music on the CD segues into the show tune, “Summertime” and Ray Charles croons, “The living is easy.”


For more information or a schedule of LIFE Center classes go to or call (916) 278-5028. For media assistance, contact the Sacramento State Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.





California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
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