SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Whether actively participating in on-site exercise classes or on JESPY’s Special Olympics teams, JESPY House clients have long enjoyed being members of the non-profit’s Athletics & Fitness program. Despite the closure of on-site programming during the pandemic, clients have been able to enjoy fitness by participating in JESPY’s robust schedule of virtual sessions on a daily basis.

As an added bonus, clients also get to interact with peers all while keeping fit.

“The main focus of the workouts is to keep clients physically active,” said Jerica Best, JESPY’s Athletics & Fitness Coordinator. “Exercise tends to decrease anxiety, allow for normalcy and a routine in their lives, provide socialization and promote healthy lifestyle choices.”

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Addressing these issues and providing support is important to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, especially during the pandemic.

The online classes incorporate a warm-up, low-impact cardio, strength training done with resistance, weights, or body weight. Clients also participate in flexibility exercises. Best notes that all exercises are modified depending on a client’s physical abilities.

In addition to health reasons, longtime JESPY client Nancy J. participates in the online sessions to interact with other clients.

“Working out online keeps me busy,” said Nancy, who exercises on her elliptical machine during the sessions. “I’d rather work out with other people and be social. It’s more fun. I like the morning group because I can work out early and do other things after that.”

Ben K. added that he exercises online because he wants to "be healthy and stronger" and to "participate in Special Olympics when [he] return[s] to JESPY."

“I also like exercising online because I can work out with people that I know,” he said.

Clients log on to participate in various sessions which include a one-hour exercise, Zumba class and fitness/exercise discussions.

“Some clients were previously involved in the Athletics programs others were not,” said Best. “It’s really nice to see how the clients who are trying the virtual groups want to continue in some way once on-site programming returns.”

During the pandemic, clients are also practicing wellness by logging on to virtual yoga and meditation sessions offered by JESPY’s Social Wellness & Expressive Arts (SWEA) program.

While taking part in all the sessions, clients remain engaged because of the encouragement they receive from one another and the important connection to members of JESPY staff.

JESPY House supports 260 clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities between the ages of 18 and 73. Visit jespy.org to learn more.