Brisk walkers passed those moving more slowly.
"You're doing great, ladies," instructor Julie Seeman said. "Walk at a pace you can still talk to the person you're walking with."
The women, all ages 40 and older, were participating in their first StrongWomen Healthy Hearts program organized locally by the Rock County Council on Aging in partnership with UW Extension Rock County. It meets twice weekly for 12 weeks and focuses on nutrition and exercise.
Before walking, the women stretched their quadriceps, lower legs, ankles, lower backs, hamstrings and shoulders.
"Can you feel it?" Seeman asked.
"Oh, yeah," one woman answered.
By enrolling in the class, the women committed to take control of their heart health to fight heart disease.
"As with any exercise, once you get started, the hope is the class will motivate you and that you'll go home and exercise additional days," Seeman said.
"I tend not to exercise but want to," one woman said.
A 79-year-old woman, who asked that her name not be published, said she experienced a "silent" heart attack 10 years ago but was fortunate to recover without any lasting side effects.
"So this is a good motivator for me," she said.
Judy Bever, 67, Janesville, said she learned the importance of keeping active and eating right after her 68-year-old, health-conscious husband had a heart attack last year.
"It provides motivation," she said.
Seeman said the class "is for people just getting off the couch who don't know what to do or where to start."
Joyce Lubben leads the class with Seeman. They are employed by the Rock County Council on Aging and are among five StrongWomen Healthy Hearts program trainers in the county.
"The Council on Aging's philosophy is we want people to live well and thrive," Seeman said.
The women in the class learned how to use pedometers.
"It's meant to be worn on your hip and will keep you motivated," Seeman said. "On average, a woman should take 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy."
The StrongWomen Healthy Hearts program was designed by a team at Tufts University, Boston. The same university team introduced strength-training programs for middle-aged and older women, which also have been offered in Rock County.
"This is our first exercise/nutrition class," Seeman said.
In addition to learning about how to improve cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight, class participants will learn about menu planning, portion control and healthy eating.
Many women can significantly reduce their risk of heart disease, Lubben said, if they have information and support to make heart-smart changes.
StrongWomen Healthy Hearts, she said, is there to help.
Registration for StrongWomen Healthy Hearts programs is underway for these upcoming sessions:
-- Mondays and Wednesdays, March 26 through June 6, 11 a.m. to noon, Trinity Lutheran Church, 1850 Cranston Road, Beloit.
-- Tuesdays and Thursdays, April 3 through June 21, 9 to 10 a.m., Beloit YMCA, 3301 Prairie Ave., Beloit.
To register, call the Rock County UW Extension office at (608) 757-5694, call Angela Flickinger at (608) 757-5689 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cost is $25, and scholarships are available. Class sizes are limited.
According to the Tufts University Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy:
-- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.
-- More than 200,000 women die each year from heart attacks—five times as many women as breast cancer.
-- Heart disease affects more women than men.