By 11a.m., when many people are in the middle of a busy workday, Inez McDowell has already reached 12,169 steps, surpassing the daily recommended number for grown adults. That is something she is enormously proud of.

“I notice that I am stronger than younger people in lifting up two bags,” McDowell said. “And they’re like 10 years younger than me, and more.”

Keeping active is a priority for this 75-year-old. Fulton County’s Department of Senior Services is helping her, and many other seniors, reach their fitness goals — even while maintaining social distancing.

Fulton County offers fitness options for older adults

The county is keeping people 55 years of age and older moving with free online exercise classes. Among them is McDowell’s favorite, a virtual dance and wellness class called “Zoomba with Seniors.”

Dancers from National Black Arts lead the online classes for seniors. SPECIAL

The class is taught online using the Zoom platform by instructors from National Black Arts — formerly known as National Black Arts Festival (NBAF). The program just received a portion of a $40,000 contribution from Northside Hospital for the 2020-2021 season. The goal is to provide seniors with wellness education and exercise through dance.

“It’s impossible to adequately describe the importance of National Black Arts and what it has meant to the people of Atlanta,” said Lee Echols, vice president of marketing at Northside Hospital. “NBAF’s impact as a legacy organization gives it both gravitas as well as cultural legitimacy.”

NBAF’s Managing Director Stephanie Owens said the program closely aligns with Northside Hospital’s mission and strategic initiatives focused on preventative health services and healthy lifestyle behaviors.

“We are thrilled to continue this important work with Northside, impacting our communities and improving the health of those that we serve,” said Owens.

Several seniors, including McDowell, are seeing the benefits. Participating seniors report feeling more agile and having fewer incidents of falling; lowered body mass index readings, which measure body fat based on weight and height; and feeling more alert and attentive.

“My health is so good that when I went to the doctor in June, they didn’t take my labs because they are always so great,” McDowell said. After losing 40 pounds, she no longer needs eyedrops or medication for cholesterol.

Group leaders say McDowell is the most active member of the group and her doctors expect she will go on to live for many years.

Staying active, staying safe

“I want to be active. I want to be moving,” said McDowell. “I didn’t want to come down with diabetes or high blood pressure. So far, it has done so much good for me. I have lost a lot of weight.”

But she is not taking any chances with the coronavirus. McDowell’s son caught the illness in New York, and some of her friends have died from COVID-19. That is why she is grateful for the online classes.

“I just try to do my exercise online,” McDowell said. “No crowds. No going out. You’re not going to get me going nowhere.”

McDowell said she is not bothered by the time alone in her home because being active makes the time pass. She encourages fellow seniors to be determined and consistent if they want to reach their goals.

Find online classes

Fulton County’s Department of Senior Services offers a variety of fitness classes, as well as classes for cooking and nutrition, art, music, foreign language and technology via their Senior Virtual Programming and YouTube Channel.

For more info, go to or call 404-613-6000.

Tiffany Griffith

Tiffany Griffith is a journalist based in Atlanta.