By Scott Scanlon

Refresh Editor

Mary Anne Cappellino knows first-hand the unexpected benefits of exercise.

One of them came courtesy of the 100th Turkey Trot in 1995.

“I went to run it as I do every year with my friends,” Cappellino recalled last week. “I was a single mom at the time. I left my two daughters at home watching the Macy’s Day Parade while I went out and ran. And I met a very, very wonderful man at that Turkey Trot.”

She and Gary Cappellino have been married 15 years.

“Whenever we can, we do the Turkey Trot together,” she said.

It’s amazing they find time. Gary owns family car dealerships in Amherst and Lockport, and Mary Anne, wellness director at the Buffalo Athletic Club, also teaches classes at the Eastern Hills and Evans Street women’s BAC sites.

Q. What do you do at the BAC?

A. Work is very diverse, which is why I love it. It goes from emails to coordinating other instructors to go off-site to teaching Zumba classes to offering seminars to offering full-blown, eight-week weight-loss programs. I’m also the team captain for the BAC Ride for Roswell team.

I teach group classes in the morning, and from that point I do the corporate wellness and sometimes in the evening I do corporate trainings. It’s not work when you love what you do and I love what I do.

Q. What classes do you teach?

A. I teach Zumba, Zumba toning and body sculpting. I’m also certified to teach spinning.

Q. What concerns do you hear about the most?

A. People say they have a lack of motivation, that it’s hard to get out of bed to get here. I say to that, “You don’t have to love it, but you have to understand you have to do it.” You look at the benefits you get and let the benefits inspire you, motivate you, because you want energy, you want weight management, you want a stronger heart and to reduce your risk of disease.

I’ll often hear people feel they don’t have the skill. “I can’t take Zumba because I don’t know how to dance.” Or, “I can’t go the gym because I can’t lift weights properly.” You can do anything you put your mind to. You should challenge yourself, step out of your comfort zone and try new activities. People say they’re too old and I say, “You’re never too old to change, and grow and learn and gain benefits.”

Oftentimes those barriers are excuses that they haven’t confronted with proven strategies, and there are proven strategies to help us get motivated and find time to exercise.

Q. You recently published a new children’s book, “The Most Clever Frog,” illustrated by Russell Benfanti. What’s it about?

A. The first book focuses on one learning objective: “You just can’t sit if you want to be fit.” The reason for that is there is more seated time than ever before and physical inactivity is the No. 1 risk factor for heart disease. Lifestyle is the culprit. We have more screen time, more devices we sit and play with and more labor saving devices, so I wanted to write a book to help kids understand the importance of balancing seated time with active time.

I do that through a story about a little frog [named EEEK] who made a decision to sit, thought he was clever and effective because in this position he could be very, very good at catching all these flies. But what he learned is that inactive time didn’t work so well for him [and he gained lots of weight], and he learned to get back to exercising to balance the seated time with active time, the calories in and the calories spent through exercise. The back of the book has a couple of pages that help parents reinforce the message and give them ideas about how the whole family can get active.

Q. What advice would you consider giving to someone who has put on weight and now is determined to lose it?

A. To set a realistic goal. Oftentimes if our goals are too lofty, we sabotage them or lose our motivation. Begin to journal the food intake, the daily diet, so you see where you are today. Start to make small but significant food choices so you look for more nutrient-rich food, better calories and portion sizes. Look at snacking as a way to keep your blood sugar level consistent … so you don’t want every M&M in the building.

“The Most Clever Frog” is available online at for $6.99.