Cindy Bengtson-Budzyn hadn't been to a fitness class in years. The 60-year-old La Cañada resident serves on the human resources committee of YMCA of the Foothills and is a member herself, but was always too busy or too shy to enroll in one of the many fitness programs offered there.
"I hesitated to come because I didn't want to feel overwhelmed by totally fit younger people," she said.
But last week she made a major life change, becoming a vegetarian and adopting an alkaline-rich diet. This week is about developing a fitness regimen, she said.
In that vein, Bengtson-Budzyn attended a Tuesday morning low-impact cardio and strength-training class led by YMCA instructor Celia Weiss. Her new commitment to a healthier lifestyle couldn't have been better timed.
YMCA of the Foothills recently rolled out a new initiative called 50 Moving Forward at its La Cañada and Tujunga locations. A nationwide collaboration with pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Inc., it aims to help people ages 50 to 64 become physically fit, socially engaged and educated about living well and preventing illness.
The program, being piloted at just 25 of the nation's 967 YMCA associations, has four components — fitness, health, prevention and fun — and features events that are free and open to the public, according to Rosanne Malogolowkin, executive director of Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA. So far, nearly 200 locals have signed up for activities running through May 31. The goal is to have 1,000 enrollees.
"Every week we have at least three physical activities or events, and there is at least one other event around health screenings or fun," Malogolowkin said. "But I want to build off that. There's so much more we can do."
About 20 people showed up Tuesday to Weiss' class and spent an hour working out to disco hits like "Funky Town" and Beyonce and Lady Gaga remixes.
"I believe if you work at it, you will get results," Weiss told the group.
In the crowd was Barbara Coleman, 62, of Pasadena, a daily exerciser who came at the behest of a friend and to try something new.
"This was a good change of pace," she said after class. "It doesn't intimidate you like when you're with the younger ones."
In addition to exercise-oriented Zumba, cycling, aquafit and yoga, participants can join a walking club, attend a weekly "Doc Talk" series given by local health care providers or go on hiking trips to Whiting Woods or Echo Mountain. The plan is for attendees to build relationships that will encourage healthy behaviors, Malogolowkin said.
One 50 Moving Forward newcomer was Pasadena resident Eddie Newman, 65, whose friend, Cynthia Roye, is on the board of the YMCA of the Foothills and encouraged her to come out.
"She texted me and said there was an over-50 class starting today," Newman said. "I came kicking and screaming, but I enjoyed it. I like the fact that she worked the total body."
On her way out, Newman and other attendees visited a display table to pick up a schedule of events and more information on the 50 Moving Forward Program. Free T-shirts, in a range of colors, read: "Of Course I've Still Got It!"
That's the main message, Malogolowkin said.
"There are so many ways you can be active, and it can be really fun," she added. "I hope there are a lot of relationships that are built, and that this is the beginning of a path to better health for everyone."
For more on 50 Moving Forward, visit ymca.net/50movingforward. Or call or visit YMCA of the Foothills, (818) 790-0123, 1930 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada, ymcacc.org.