86-year-old fitness instructor inspires others


TULSA, Okla. — The second Friday in January is known as “Quitter’s Day,” the day people are most likely to give up their New Year’s resolutions. If you’re considering giving up yours, the story of Gerry Dunbar might inspire you to push forward.

You see, Gerry is sassy, spirited, and may be Oklahoma’s oldest aerobics instructor.

“I’m 86! It’s just a number,” says Gerry.

From pushups to planks, Gerry is a fitness inspiration.

“There’s nobody like Gerry. She’s a sweetheart; everybody loves her,” says class participant Vivian Howard.

Gerry started teaching in her 60s and has been going strong for 25 years. The only fitness break this 80-something so-called ‘Energizer Bunny’ has taken was after a serious diagnosis several years ago. “During a routine check-up, doctors found a spot on one of my breasts. I said, ok, what are we going to do? They said let’s do a mastectomy. I had it, and I was back teaching in a month,” recalls Gerry.

Gerry begins each class with prayer, grateful for her health and her students. “Before the pandemic, I was averaging 80-100 students, and one day I had 120 people in this gym,” she says.

Her classes average about 50 now due to the pandemic. Gerry says, “I don’t charge for this class. I do it because it’s my heart. It makes me filled with joy.”

The classes are held three mornings each week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:30-9:30 am at First United Methodist Church in Broken Arrow. The free classes aren’t just for seniors; they’re open to all ages. The only thing that Gerry asks is that all attendees are vaccinated. “We’re trying to protect ourselves, but others also,” says Gerry.

Gerry is not the only family member in fitness. Her 88-year-old husband, Bill Dunbar, is a former runner. “Until about three years ago, I was doing the Tulsa Run,” says Bill.

Now, Bill teaches a chair exercise class across the hall. “It’s the same time as this class, and it’s for people who can’t do my class now, not because of age, but physically. It’s also a place where you can sit and talk to someone… and that’s important,” says Gerry.

You see, what’s happening here is more than just fitness; lives are being transformed through friendship too.

“We have started bunco groups; we have parties, we just do all kinds of stuff together now. If it wasn’t for Gerry, I wouldn’t know 99% of these people,” says Vivian Howard.

It’s a fitness community making big strides, thanks to an 86-year-old who never plans to act her age.

For more information on the class and its location, click here.

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