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Gaining strength, flexibility
Older couple turn to tae kwon do for exercise

 Vicki Duperock (center) and her husband, John (right), follow Supreme Grand Master Joon Seong's direction during a class at Seong's Tae Kwon Do Academy earlier this month. Vicki, 73, and John, 78, say the class benefits their physical and mental health.
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Date published: 10/30/2005


Retirees John and Vicki Duperock stay busy with trips to the beach, visits with grandkids and church projects. But to really get their bodies moving, they change into white pants and jackets twice a week for morning tae kwon do classes.

The Duperocks are part of a small class of older students at Seong's Tae Kwon Do Academy on Courthouse Road in Spotsylvania County.

"They age-grouped us," said Vicki Duperock, 73, a retired administrative assistant. Her husband, a Coast Guard veteran, is 78. Their morning class has a total of three members.

About six months after starting, the Duperocks say they're reaping the benefits of tae kwon do. They feel better physically, and say they're more flexible.

The martial art practice is a little bit different than the 1.5- to 2-mile walks the Spotsylvania couple takes in the morning.

"The stress level's different," John Duperock said.

Tae kwon do has a higher stress level, he said--but it's paying off.

"We can just see a difference in the way our bodies are," Vicki Duperock said. "They're stronger and more firm."

The stereotype of the frail, sedentary senior doesn't fit the Duperocks, or many other active seniors.

Still, the National Institute on Aging says people their age and older face a number of potential health risks, including falls, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and broken bones.

The institute recommends exercises such as flexibility and balance training to avoid falls, endurance training to improve the circulatory system and strength exercises to build muscles.

For the Duperocks, tae kwon do lessons are enhancing their flexibility and helping them build strength.

At the academy one recent morning, their class warmed up by walking around the room and then stretching. Much of the class time was spent on conditioning exercises.

Grand Master Joon Seong led students in a round of feet-claps. The students sat on the floor with their legs out straight and rapidly clapped their feet.

John Duperock counted 88 claps.

"If you can touch your toes, that'll be great," Seong said.

"You'll have to cut me in half," John Duperock responded.

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