Senior pastor Brett Land glanced out the window of his office at the First Baptist Church of Shamrock and saw something that warmed his heart: A young father was approaching the church’s playground and basketball court, carrying his daughter on his shoulders. They reached their destination, and each grabbed a basketball.

“He was shooting with one, and she was trying to figure out what to do with her basketball,” says the minister. “She appeared to be about two years old.”

There are no gyms or fitness centers in Shamrock, but the church’s outdoor space is available at all hours to the residents of this tiny town. Land says there’s never been any vandalism.

“We don’t worry about it; we just put the basketballs out in a container,” he says.

Many such Oklahoma communities are short on exercise facilities, but people who care about fun and fitness will usually find a way.

Marlene Clowers did a lot of volunteer work during her years as a stay-at-home mom. So, when she was approached by the Grand Gateway Area Agency on Aging to train as an Enhance Fitness leader, she assumed it would be another freebie. Turns out, she’s compensated for the classes she teaches at the Ketchum Senior Center, but she would probably do it for free.

“It’s an evidence-based exercise program that helps keep you out of the nursing home,” says Clowers. 

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Participants report having more energy, better balance, increased flexibility and enhanced upper and lower body strength.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes operate a fitness center in the small town of Concho, where the tribe is headquartered. But many tribal members live in rural areas and towns too small to support a gym, so Marcos Baros goes to them. He’s the tribe’s diabetes prevention coordinator and fitness assistant, and one of his goals is to convince people they don’t need a gym membership to stay in shape.

“We have been working on an at-home workout book,” he says. 

At the same time, Baros wants tribal members to get comfortable with gyms.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t know anything about the gym or how to use the equipment,” says Baros. “Nobody explained it to me. I was scared of the gym. We try to make sure that we are welcoming for everybody.”

Land says programming at his church also includes recreation, especially for the youth. Activities range from card games to ping pong, so some youth nights are more physical than others.

“Recreation is important for everybody,” he says. “Everybody likes to play. It’s a way to connect, to team up with people you would not otherwise be teamed with, to celebrate successes. When we are doing games, it helps us to share life together.”

Community Bonds

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, says Marlene Clowers, “I am very happy.” Those are the days she teaches two Enhance Fitness classes at the Ketchum Senior Center.
“It’s like family to me,” she says of the eight to 10 seniors who typically show up for each workout. Clowers does the exercises along with her students, which she enjoys with the added bonus of keeping some of her own health challenges at bay. 
“They tell me how much it’s helping,” she says. “They appreciate me. They are real thankful for the program. Especially what it does for their balance.”