SUCCESS STORY / Dana Kuehn, 59, of Sandy Springs

‘I started looking up at the sky again. This was something I did as a kid, and that became a real highlight for me.’

Editor’s note: When the pandemic shut down gyms and indoor exercising, a group of neighbors formed their own workout group, the P.E. group. We have previously featured co-leaders Pamela Zendt and Ilsa Mendoza-Jackson.

When she started: August 2020

Age: 59 years

Personal life: “I’m a college professor, licensed professional counselor and artist,” Dana Kuehn said. “I am an expressive arts facilitator in private practice.” She lives with her fiancé in Sandy Springs.

The lifestyle change: “Because of the pandemic — I am a college professor and have been teaching online — that put me in the home a great deal, which was a very big change for me,” Kuehn said. In March 2020, she moved to Sandy Springs. Through a friend, she was invited to the P.E. group. “While lying on yoga mats in the cul-de-sac to do the core work, I started looking up at the sky again,” Kuehn said. ”This was something I did as a kid, and that became a real highlight for me. The neighborhood is rich with wildlife, so a hawk might fly by. We met at 4:45 p.m. two days a week — the months of the shorter days you’d see the change in lighting in the sky. I realized somewhere along the journey, I look so forward to that experience. It’s relaxing and fulfilling to look at the sky and look at the shapes of the branches and the shapes the sky made. I don’t know when I would have rediscovered that without this group. I enjoyed watching the seasons change.”

Change in eating habits: “I try to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, so working with reducing sugar has been the one for me,” Kuehn said.

Dana’s steps of change:

1. Making a shift: “I got interested in making a shift ... because I have some strong osteoarthritis.” Pre-pandemic, she was doing yoga but not cardio or strength training. “I know I’ve gotten stronger, especially in my arms — I had not been a consistent strength trainer before the group.”

2. Making a commitment: “When it comes to scheduling things, I decided that, yes, this is going to be part of my schedule. Because of it being a group and conversation and laughing, it was a wonderful way to commit to this, enjoy it and be somewhat caught off guard that you were getting stronger.”

3. Making friends: “I’m with my friends, I’m exercising, and I’m encouraged by them and what they are doing.”

Exercise routine: Kuehn works out three days a week with the group, and she does yoga and walking three more days per week.

Biggest challenge: “The group started playing pickleball, and that is really fun. My osteoarthritis has started to get in my way with some of that. Just the idea that my joint can only move so much, so do I choose pickleball? Or do I choose art? I would say I would be continuing to enjoy pickleball if it were not for the degenerative cartilage — that’s been my challenge. It doesn’t really get in the way of holding the weights — it got exacerbated by pickleball.”

Dana’s three top tips:

1. Beat the heat and embrace the cold: “No longer am I as reluctant to use extreme heat or extreme cold to decide that I won’t take a walk. If there’s more extreme weather, I know how to layer. I can hydrate. I can move around in that cold weather and I know I will warm up.”

2. Adding a challenge: “Adding some challenge, which might be like upping your level of weights.” Kuehn does emphasize the importance of easing into any new challenge. “I made a mistake and jumped from 5 pounds to 8 pounds, and that was not good. It’s better to increase a pound at a time.”

3. Building community: “I think there are rewards of having an exercise group whether on your street or with friends. Because of the community it builds, it makes you more committed to doing it.”

How has your life changed? “This group has had a profound effect on me. I am feeling more connected in this neighborhood and with these women. ... These women knew what they were doing. They put effort into changing things up. ... I have a lot of gratitude for them. They took time to make it interesting. ... I hope this group will continue for perpetuity. I think that exercising outside has been a surprising, glorious part of it all.”


Seeking readers’ stories of lifestyle changes: We’re looking for stories about changing health habits. While The Atlanta Journal-Constitution does not endorse any specific programs, we include names and links for the benefit of readers who want further information. If you would like to share your story of a lifestyle change, please contact reporter Michelle C. Brooks and include your email address, phone number, and before and after photos (by mail or JPEG). You can email her directly at: ajcsuccessstories@gmail.com.