ST. ALBANS – Every Monday and Thursday morning, several local and retired women gather at St. Paul’s Methodist Church for a free exercise class called Bone Builders, provided by the RSVP program of the United Way.

At first glance, the simple exercises don’t look like they’re doing much. Amidst heel rolls and arm swings, there’s no strenuous grunts or sweating pores. In fact, smiles spread around the room as the women count together and share stories from their lives in between breaks.

But if you ask any one of these women, these simple motions have brought new life to their bones.

Debbie LeBlanc is one of these women. Diagnosed with osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis, she used to struggle to do simple tasks around the house.

“In bed, I used to have a hard time even getting my heel to hit the mattress. But since I’ve been doing these exercises, I haven’t been having any of that pair or the cramps,” LeBlanc said. “Balance is another benefit. Now when I come out of the shower I can stand on one foot to dry my feet, and not have to hold onto a counter.”

“We hear things like that all the time,” Ellen Biddle, director of the RSVP program said. “People who were afraid to get into the shower by themselves when they were home alone, or even walking up and down stairs when they’re home. They can do that now and feel confident doing it.”

The Bone Builders program has only been going on in the Franklin County area for about a year and a half, but has already made a big difference in the local community.

The first class grew out of group of ladies at the Pillsbury Senior Community. Just this fall the class expanded to the St. Paul’s location.  Now, LeBlanc leads the group twice a week through the daily exercises, and Mary Pelkey, the RSVP coordinator of Franklin and Grand Isle counties, has set her sights on spreading the class to Enosburg.

“Within the next few weeks the class should begin right at the Emergency Services Building,” Pelkey said. “We’re hoping to have things going by April at the latest.”


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