Exercise Change makes high impact in Harrisburg

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Exercise Change yoga class meeting at its Penn St. lot.

Exercise Change supports the voices of underserved populations in Harrisburg neighborhoods through donation-based wellness classes.

Out of hardships come great ideas. That certainly is the case with the newly formed Exercise Change, a community wellness and fundraising initiative.

A group of local wellness instructors recognized a need to support community organizations and made a plan to step up.

The goal of Exercise Change is to give local residents a safe space to practice wellness while raising funds for local nonprofits.

In-person, socially distanced classes are held two to three times per week in an open lot at 2035 Penn St. in Midtown Harrisburg. Class fees are donation-based and support a different local nonprofit each month.

In its first two months of classes, Exercise Change raised money for GLO-Harrisburg and 717 Capital Rebirth. August’s beneficiary is Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region.

Book Exercise Change classes through the link in their Instagram bio.

Workout for a cause

“When the pandemic hit, we saw a lot of isolation along with a bunch of reawakenings both socially and racially,” said Puja Gellerman, co-organizer and instructor for Exercise Change. “Everyone was trying to figure out what to do next.”

Gellerman said she saw Megan Lesko, an instructor from H2L Studio, hosting a class to benefit GLO in her backyard and recognized an opportunity to utilize the vacant grass lot behind her house.

She did some digging and talked with people around the community to gain access for the initiative.

Once approved, Gellerman contacted Lesko and pitched her the idea. The two ran with it.

“I had never actually met Megan before this,” Gellerman said. “But I told her about the lot and how awesome it would be to create something there.”

Gellerman said she always had this idea of wanting to provide a space for wellness that is attainable and accessible.

“A lot of people have people been faced with life or death, or what is my purpose or being very isolated,” said Gellerman. “This is trying to find what can we do to try to find that change in positive energy.

With Exercise Change, Gellerman is combining two of her skill sets to better the community. She uses her wellness experience and her occupational therapy master’s degree in what she feels is a completely innovative way.

“In my heart, if things can be attainable at an accessible rate, people should have access to it,” Gellerman said.

Exercise Change also addresses some of the issues within the wellness community, an industry recently criticized for its lack of diversity.

“We’re providing voices for non-white people or how non-white people are able to be a conduit of these services to people who need and want it,” Gellerman said.

Exercise Change participants practice yoga at the Penn St. lot.

Exercise Change Classes

Exercise Change hosts a variety of classes from yoga to boot camp throughout the week, using a donation-based registration fee.

Gellerman said they have classes for all skill levels. Currently, three instructors donate their time, and each one has their own expressions.

“In my class, Meditate and Move, we sit in silence for 5 minutes to start and it’s really nice to have that time,” Gellerman said. “Then, I like to teach what is fun and beneficial in my body.”

Yoga-centric classes make up a bulk of the classes, but classes change on a weekly basis to incorporate different exercises.

“Yoga specifically is for everyone,” Gellerman said. “I think it is tapping into both abilities and limitations. It’s about your own relationship with your body and how you spend it in your space.”

Classes schedules change from week to week, so be sure to look on their Instagram for the updated lineup. Previous and current classes include vinyasa flow, core yoga, meditate and move, and boot camps, among others.

What’s next for Exercise Change

The class schedule goes through September, as weather permits. Gellerman said details aren’t yet finalized for colder months, but it looks like virtual classes could be the answer.

Exercise Change also is helping to spread the word about Big Brothers Big Sisters The Big Bingo virtual event on Wednesday, Aug. 19. Register to play at home; $10 suggested donation.

Gellerman wouldn’t let me in on next month’s beneficiary but said it would be a surprise.

Be sure to follow Exercise Change on Instagram to stay up on the latest classes and fundraising efforts.

Sara Bozich
Author: Sara Bozich

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