Detroit Man Helps Seniors Hustle for Good Health

 Content brought to you by Detroit Medical Center

ouglas Shackleford's weekly hustle aerobics class at the Oak Park recreation center is proof that exercise can be fun. And his students-some in their 70s, 80s and 90s-know how to move.

"Hustle aerobics is the only exercise you can do in a social setting," he says of the part-dance, part-fitness routine. "So you get out at the club or at your family reunion or a wedding … you won't be doing pushups at a wedding."

The Twist, The Monkey, The Mashed Potato-these are few energizing dances students learn in Shackleford's class. As he explains, fitness is easy when people are having fun. "And it's caught on pretty well. A lot of people love it," especially seniors looking to stay active. "I have people who have been dancing with me since 1996. And they were seniors when they started. Now, they are in their 90s still dancing," says Shackleford. "I realized when I first started dancing that it was the best form of exercise, and it has proven itself over 20 years if you look at my students."

Beyond teaching exercise, simply volunteering in your community is one way to keep a community healthy, he says.


"That helps me physically and spiritually just knowing that I am helping someone else.

"And you are setting up good things with your karma," adds Shackleford. "The more positive things you do, and the more positive things you do for other people, the more positive things come back to you. I just try to plant positive things in the community and hopefully they will grow."

And when he heard about the Detroit Medical Center's Healthy You, Healthy Community initiative, he jumped at the opportunity to spread the word as a Path to Health Community Ambassador.

"Since DMC saved my life, so I was a big supporter in what they are trying to do," says Shackleford, explaining he had an operation at DMC in 2007 after suffering a collapsed lung. "If I had waited, it would have been over. I am just glad to be alive. And when DMC was supporting me, I just decided to support DMC in whatever way I can. I love them."

Most importantly, says Shackleford, DMC is the reason he can still help people stay active, be healthy and keep on dancing.

"It makes me feel really good to know that I am helping people. If I can take a person with two left feet and no rhythm and teach him-I can teach anybody," he says. "It gives me great satisfaction to hear my senior students telling me that they can out-dance their grandkids.

"That is a lot of fun, just knowing that I've been a positive thing that helps somebody. And (my students) have known each other for years. It's like a little community, a family."

And, like his students, the 58-year-old Shackleford doesn't plan to stop moving any time soon.

"By them still doing it, they have inspired me to keep dancing, so I can keep dancing for the next 30 years at least," he says. "That's the plan anyway."

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