Madison Hopkins kicks her legs and swings her arms and Bettie Nelson throws a left jab followed by a right cross. This is not your average step class.
It's kickboxing in its simplest form and taught by a certified personal trainer, who kept dozens of Healthy Church Challenge participants on their toes during a March 9 workout session at Mississippi Blvd. Christian Church.
"My goal is to inspire people to reach their goal," said Yacqui Peete, 41, who got men, women and children to stretch, bend, kick and punch to loosen up their limbs. "I'm trying to get people to change their lifestyle. If you fall off the wagon, dust yourself off and keep going."
Hopkins and Nelson were expending the same amount of energy on the gym floor, but the only difference is their age. Hopkins, the daughter of Maurice and Lawinter Hopkins, is 3 years old, and Nelson, a retired lockbox clerk, is 66.
"It's the norm for me. I do this every day," said Nelson, a member of The Healing Cathedral Christian Church, who works out four days a week doing cardio kick boxing, aerobics and walking the treadmill at the Church Health Center.
"When you get older, your metabolism slows down. And I'm just trying to strengthen my bones and stay at a size 14."
Hopkins worked out alongside her mother at one end of the gym floor, and her 2-year-old brother, Matthew Hopkins, worked out with their father at the other end. They mimicked every kick and jab, and jumped around incessantly.
"I participated in the Challenge last year," said Lawinter Hopkins, 28, an employee at the Advertising Check-in Bureau. "My husband is involved this year. That's why we brought our children along so all of us can live a healthy lifestyle and maintain our health."
A member of Citadel of Deliverance Church of God in Christ, Lawinter Hopkins has dropped 20 pounds since last year's Challenge. Relatively healthy by self-description, she wants to lose about 60 pounds to ward off diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and other debilitating illnesses.
Presented by BlueCross® BlueShield® of Tennessee, the Challenge is designed to address health problems through area faith-based organizations and create a healthier place to live, work and play in Memphis, Shelby County and West Tennessee.
The winning teams of the Challenge will receive prizes that will benefit their churches and health ministries. The grand prize is a $5,000 certificate for fitness equipment and nutritional counseling. There will also be an individual prize awarded to the person who loses the most weight overall.
Lawinter Hopkins said the Challenge is an "eye-opener" and "exciting." The family, she said, had initially planned to do something else on that weekend, but decided that working out together was far too important to miss.
Nelson is keeping up with various workout regimens, both at the Church Health Center and when she is participating in workouts during the Challenge. "I got in a good workout for today," she said.
She initially started working out in 2011 after doctors diagnosed her with low bone density.
"I went to the doctor because my legs were getting numb. My hip joint was deteriorating and I had stabbing pain," Nelson recalls. "But I don't have those problems anymore since I started working out."
Peete encourages women such as Nelson and Hopkins to start thinking about themselves and not spend the majority of their time taking care of others. "They do everything for everybody else," she said. "They need to think about themselves."
She paraphrased a verse in 1 Corinthians 6:19 to justify why the body should be treated with respect. "The Bible says the body is our temple, so we need to treat it as such."
(For more information on the Healthy Church Challenge, call 901-278-0881 or visit www.Facebook.com/TheHealthyChurchChallenge.)