The 50 Plus Club

Health and fitness are so often associated with youth, but the benefits of exercise beyond your prime are irrefutable


Aging is an inescapable part of life – especially for women. Although serums and makeup can prevent visible signs on the outside, we hear from three women who have proven that exercise should, and can be a vital part of growing older.

The trouble is, most of us don’t like to complain or ‘give in’ to our years, but the longer small pains and aches are unattended to, the more likely they will escalate to something much more serious. Elena Kidane, 62, was a leading architect for 15 years in London. Constantly working on big desks and drawing blueprints to needle point precision, she was hunched over a lot of the time. “The tension in the shoulders and eyes was massive,” she explains, “and the pain in the neck was horrendous.”

During a long shift at work, Elena was admitted to hospital. “My shoulder kept freezing and I had shooting pains in my lower back and right leg,” she says, “the big question came as to whether I continue working in pain or change my profession.” The company she was working for at the time pushed for voluntary redundancy and Elena reluctantly took it.

By strengthening our bodies, we can reduce the risk of falling and breakages in the bones.

After numerous steroid injections and doctor referrals, surgical intervention was suggested. As chance had it, Elena stumbled upon Iyengar yoga at the same time and started to take up classes. A complete beginner, it changed her life: “after a few months I started feeling huge improvements! To know that yoga could give the same relief as the tranquillisers and injections was such a relief.”

Degenerative conditions such as osteoporosis is common in women as they reach menopause where their hormones change considerably. By strengthening our bodies, we can reduce the risk of falling and breakages in the bones. “Correcting posture at the earliest opportunity would help to avoid continued irritation,” explains Laura Slocombe, a physiotherapist in Clapham, “and regular exercise keeps tissue quality in the best possible state.”

Now some of you may have heard of Les Mills classes, known for their high intensity and cardiovascular endurance, so you would never guess that Bodypump instructor Janet Bernard is 55 years young. “To teach you have to take part,” she explains, “my classes are very hands on and I end up doing about 90% of the class with them!” Just to clarify, that’s eight classes a week darting between Clapham and Balham; “it was 12-13 classes last year!”

Frailty and the decreased energy associated with aging is often the result of inactivity and muscle wastage.

After being made redundant from her job as a legal executive for 26 years, Janet followed her heart and her daughter’s advice and decided to invest in something she has always loved – being active. Her popular classes at Fitness First in Clapham are now teeming with an eclectic mix of life, emerging energised and ready to sign up for the next class. “We always have a natter after,” she says, “to see everyone’s grimaced smile makes it all worth it for me!”

Frailty and the decreased energy associated with aging is often the result of inactivity and muscle wastage. Low impact exercise is a great way to start building up on general fitness and preventing injury as well as promoting physical and mental health. “Most issues I get with older clients are very postural related like neck, shoulder and lower back pain,” explains Laura. A lifetime of poor posture could lead to serious health conditions such as osteoarthritis, often triggered by a career stuck behind a desk or heavy lifting.

The strength and endurance training associated with Bodypump improves cardiovascular health which prevents heart disease and increases your metabolism; this in turn reduces our chances of obesity and diabetes. Now considering a transition from Bodypump into Masters Physique Bodybuilding, Janet continues to defy even her own expectations and continues to prove to even herself that it is never too late. Time is not the enemy, excuses are.

“I didn’t dream that I could do all these things!” Says Elena, “my only regret? Not starting earlier.” Cycling between South Thames College and Clapham Fitness First teaching yoga, pilates and general sport classes, Elena feels she gives something back to the community she has found a home in. “I have birthed all my children here in South West London and I have lived in Battersea longer than I did Russia,” she says, “these days I don’t take medical tablets, I have no headaches or back discomfort – my skeletal muscular system is so much better!”

Book a free trial at Fitness First Clapham online or visit the gym at 276-288 Lavender Hill, London SW11 1LJ.

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