Senior Program of the Month - October: Exercising with Margrecia

Five times a week, a rumbling laughter grows as seniors stream in for Stretch and Tone, Line Dancing or Middle Eastern Dancing classes at one of Greenwich House’s four Lower Manhattan senior centers.

In these classes, the quick-witted Margrecia Mindell – self-described as having the showbiz flair of Joan Rivers and the conditioned prowess of a workout-era Jane Fonda – interlaces humor while leading the class through series of stretches and aerobic exercises. 

 “Why do we do this?” she asks to a Stretch and Tone class – some sitting, some standing, most smiling and all of them stretching their arms towards the sky. “To strengthen your arms so you can push away all those people who want to help you carry your groceries,” she calls out, answering her own question.

Margrecia, 72, has over 40 years of experience as an adult dance instructor, fitness trainer and entertainer.  “I’ve seen everything,” she says, counting aerobics, belly dancing, ballroom dancing and country western moves among the bullet points on her resume. Trends may come and go – but laughter and movement, she notes, remains the best preventative medicine. “It enhances everyone’s mood, because they come in and they want to feel good and they want to laugh,” she says. “I also play great music, everything from pop and classical to Latin and ballroom.” 

No matter the genre, Margrecia says she’s a group trainer at heart. Her Stretch and Tone classes channel everything from calisthenics to dance, using Dyna-Bands for strengthening and balance training. In Middle Eastern Dance, Margrecia shares gentle dance moves that also work to strengthen core muscles. The Line Dancing class keeps the heart rate up as seniors learn the Slide, the Cupid Shuffle and to Salsa. Some things are constant across her classes though. “We always start with a warm up and end with a cool down. In the middle of everything, we laugh and endure,” she said.

“The idea is to adapt the exercise to the participants, so everyone has a great time and continues coming back,” Margrecia said. She knows exactly where each of her students stands, even if they’re sitting, and with students who range in age from 60 all the way to 102, it’s no small tasks. “I know who needs a little push, who needs a break, who might have a hard time with the next exercise and most importantly, I know what song everyone wants to hear next,” she says.

Margrecia doesn’t want to make exercise stressful, something she considers counterproductive. She just wants people to be happy and to be active. Watching heads bob along to the background music as seniors left a recent Line Dancing class, it looks like she’s doing just that.

Margrecia teaches Stretch and Tone Tuesdays at 10:15 a.m. at the Center on the Square (20 Washington Square North) and on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. at the Judith C. White Senior Center (27 Barrow St). Line Dancing is held Mondays at 2:00 p.m. at Independence Plaza North (310 Greenwich Street) Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. at the Center on the Square and Middle Eastern Dancing is held at 1:45 p.m. at the Judith C. White Senior Center. All classes are free. Walk-ins are welcome. For more information visit

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