Pre-conceived notions about fitness fly out the window at one public housing center

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new fitness class in Kansas City, Mo., is being held in an unlikely place.  It's giving women an opportunity they never would have had otherwise.

Brigette Smith isn't sitting at home on a summer morning.

"I would have just stayed and did the self-pity and staying in the house cryin' and whinin' like I was doing," said Smith.

That was before she was invited to move. "Let's Move" is a fitness class held right her in apartment complex.  It's Chouteau Courts, a public housing complex.  Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center started the free class as part of a project to improve the health of public housing residents and reduce their health care costs.

The teacher, Robbie Joe Hughes, says she heard excuses at first.

"Oh, if I'm going to exercise, I'm gonna be tired.  And it's just the opposite," said Hughes.

The women are getting rid of pre-conceived notions about motion.

"It made me more energetic, and I found out I can do more," said Carol Jester.

Jester can do more even with an artificial hip.  And Smith can do more even with a cane.  The teacher hasn't had trouble getting the women to come to class twice a week.  They also band together to exercise away from class.

"I think it's just because they are excited that this is something consistent in their life and someone who absolutely believes in them.  And I do," said Hughes.

The participants are strengthening their bodies and their resolve.  Hughes says it might just give a woman the confidence to try other things such as going back to school.

They're stretching themselves a little farther and raising self-esteem.

"I haven't got to slimming down all the way, but I can tell 'cause the different stuff I wear, girl, I sure be lookin' cute in it.  I must say," said Smith.

Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center plans to expand the fitness class to other public housing.  The health center received a $230,000 grant from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City to help improve the health of public housing residents.