Inez Watson is a two-time breast cancer survivor and grandmother of 13 children. She says her resolve stems from her faith, which she shares with her Praisercise workout class every Monday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Calvary Baptist Church in Baltimore.
The group does yoga stretches, aerobics, mat- and chair-based Pilates, and hand-weights training, all to praise music. The exercises improve body mobility, cognitive skills and overall health, Watson says.
"Each initiative gives the body a different measure of strength," said Watson, a former administrator in the medical field. "For example, Pilates strengthens muscles and gives our movements fluidity."
Watson says the exercises help individuals in her class manage their health, while the worship gives them "a new perspective that elevates their way of thinking."
"Life is contingent upon what you do to maintain quality of life, first spiritually, then mentally, and it will manifest itself physically in that order," Watson said.
How it got started: Formerly involved in gymnastics, cheerleading and swimming, Watson has always maintained an active lifestyle. In 2000, a pastor at Calvary Baptist Church asked her to start an exercise class, and Watson immediately found her next hobby.
"I wanted to encourage others to achieve a healthy mindset through exercise," she said.
Praisercise started with three members. Now the class has about 30 participants, one of whom is Dudley Stephenson, the group's only male. Members come from all denominations and range in age from 50 to 80.
Some members were referred by friends or the church. Eight members are alumni of Frederick Douglass High School's Class of 1953. Regardless of background, they have one common goal.
"We want to stay healthy," Lee Williams Moody said. "Staying healthy is a lifestyle change. It has its challenges but it also has its rewards."
A typical class: A brief Scripture reading and prayer precedes the workout. Adorned with black Praisercise shirts and pants, members stretch before starting the 15-minute workout segments.
The song "Let the Church Say Amen" echoes in the background as the group does yoga stretches and aerobics. Watson leads exercises for individuals using mats and chairs. Alicia Keys' "Brand-New Me" and "Girl on Fire" serve as a soulful complement to the hand-weights exercises and the cooldown, which involves the group using pool noodles to stretch.
Watson says the group works several parts of the body, including the cervical spine, lumbar, iliac region, abs and hamstrings.
The workout concludes with the group forming a circle — hands held and shoulders touching — as they share a prayer and well wishes for friends and family battling illness.
Why people like it: For Praisercise participants, the class serves as a release, physically and mentally.
"Strengthening is good for the aches and pains," Pat Hall said. "It really does help."
Moody and Rebecca Miller are both cancer survivors. They credit Watson, who also serves as a mentor to breast cancer victims, for starting Praisercise and serving as a friendly face.
"The fellowship helped put me in a different frame of mind," Miller said. "We share our problems. It's good to have people that can understand what I'm going through."
How to join: You can join the free class by contacting Watson at 410-298-3944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.