There have been many reports and reviews about why people exercise and the benefits of keeping physically active.
One of the latest reports, 'Me, Not My Age or Impairment - Get Out Get Active' explains why ladies find it difficult to take the first steps and while reading it I found myself ticking off a virtual list of positive benefits of my classes.
People say they missed their more active lives prior to their life limiting health condition or impairment. At EXTEND we work round health issues, we have been complimented on the fact that we are one of the few organisations that works with the person and not the condition. A person is exactly the same person after a diagnosis and the last thing they want is someone wrapping them up in cotton wool reminding them that they are ill! EXTEND and Medau classes work round aches and pains and with a ‘can do attitude’ the class is often just what people are looking for and what the doctor ordered.
They say ‘a class for older adults, isn’t that a bit slow or boring?' No, not if you are mobilising the whole body, working every joint to your maximum and laughing at the same time. I have heard so many people say, ‘oh I can move my shoulders’ ‘my knees are less stiff’ and yes one lady did tell me that she could play the piano again!
Ladies say they do not go to classes because they have a fear of being judged – at EXTEND and Medau there is no possibility of this as the class is not competitive, everyone is looking at me and not each other and we all make mistakes and laugh at them!
So, pop along and give a class ago as you will not know if it is your thing until you try it- and the first class is always free.
The weather is grey and we all want to snuggle down until the sun shines, but did you know that getting up, having a potter about the house or just wandering down the garden to listen to the birds is good for you?
Those people with the latest Fitbit jump up every hour to 'do 250 steps' and then do a relaxing deep breathing exercise to help reduce stress. I must own up to having a 'wearable device' and was pleasantly surprised to see that on Monday 14th January my EXTEND warm up logged 11 minutes of aerobic activity (yep- an EXTEND 'gentle exercise' class) and then on 16th January my Medau class logged a massive 55 minutes aerobic activity.
A recent study showed that exercising standing up helps with balance and that exercises done while standing up 'enhances balance and the ability to do daily activities such as standing up from a low chair or climbing stairs.' The study used Tai Chi but in class we move around the hall in all directions, wave our arms , we stand on one leg and move our feet at a speed somewhat faster than we would out in the street.
But what does it all mean in every-day life? It means that we have to be aware - and mindful- of what physical activity we are doing and how long we are sitting. Something as simple standing up and walking from one room to another, down the garden, up the stairs during the adverts or standing on one leg when doing the washing up is more than some people might do. Poke your nose outside and take some deep, clean breaths and listen to the birds. Go the long way round or take the manageable hill instead of the flat path. Listen to your body, don't go mad but just do a bit more.
Keeping physically active is a bit like having a healthy, broad and balanced diet. Enjoy a little bit of everything so you do not feel deprived but you will be able to see then benefits. We can all do more at home, but EXTEND or Medau can be one of your 5-a-day and it will register on your Fitbit or other wearable device and keep the doctor happy!
And so, to some exciting news, EXTEND is now a member of ukactive, an organisation that ‘exists to improve the health of the nation by getting more people, more active, more often. ukactive provides services and facilitates partnerships for a broad range of organisations, all of which support our vision and have a role to play in achieving that goal.’
Dates for your diaries!
Monday EXTEND resumes 14th January
Tuesday EXTEND resumes 15th January
Medau on Wednesday resumes on 16th January
'Thank you' said a lady, 'because of you I can now make a fist with my hands and my fingers are more flexible'
So what you might wonder, well when you are 80+ and want to remain independent it is really important that you can hold a bread knife, peg put the washing, grasp a frying pan or draw the curtains in the evening and first thing in the morning.
Exercises for the small joints of the hands are often over-looked but they are so very important, as are exercises for the small joints of the feet. How would you manage day-to-day with stiff feet and hands that did not want to do up buttons, grasp zips or hold a cup of tea?
Exercise isn't just about increasing your steps or cardio vascular output, it isn't always about lifting heavier weights or doing more reps - it is working on the small things like turning the shoulder to get the arm in the coat, reaching down to scratch the itch, being able to find your shoe with your foot or having enough mobility in your shoulders to brush your hair.
That lady made me feel very proud, as proud as an Olympic coach whose athlete had won gold. Every week the ladies at Southgate and Highlands as well as the happy group at Kenton Jewish Care, make me smile and realise just how lucky we all are that in 1976 a group of idealistic teachers created EXTEND Exercise.
A Christmas playlist is as unique as the people in the class and this year my last 3 classes of term have been very special.
The ladies on Monday and Tuesday were in fine form and today at Medau the gymnastic ribbons lifted our spirits and by the smiles on everyone’s faces you might have thought it was Christmas morning!
Christmas is a time for families and friends. Each year, at the EXTEND class we share mince pies and we make a toast to a festive Christmas and a good new year and then we toast our absent friends. We pause, remember them, their smiles and favourite songs but knowing they would not want us to be sad, so we raise our eyes, smile and get on with living! That is what the class is all about - being with friends who become family, sharing special times, laughs and stories as well as being there at the not so easy times.
So, as we move towards Christmas, wishing everyone a very festive break, I shall be sharing some prosecco with my daughter, the cooking with my mum and sister and singing along to all the Christmas songs in the shops.
My goodness me, we have jumped from summer into Christmas – or so it seems! Autumnal leaves look so pretty but can make the pavements slippery and then the early morning frost that is attacking the winter bedding and sending shivers down the spine as we crawl out of bed. But there is plenty to look forward to – getting to know the birds as they dance round the bird feeder and scaring away the squirrels.
It seems like yesterday we were complaining about the heat and now, as I watch the ladies peel off their winter coats and put gloves in pockets, I count back the years I have been teaching. This week it is one of my class members 96th birthday and she still walks the mile to and from class! As the years roll on and the seasons pass you can be sure of one thing – the steady and determined power of women who want to stay fit and remain independent.
Dates for your diary
The last week of term is December 11th. The last class of term are:
Bourne: Monday 11th December
Highlands: Tuesday 12th December
Medau Wednesday 13th December.
Classes resume on Monday 14th January.
Tuesday 15th there is no class as it is the Highlands post Christmas lunch and Wednesday 16th there is no class Medau class as it is the Medau post Christmas lunch.
Everyone seems to be thinking about increasing their physical activity.
This time last year 10,000 steps was the ‘in thing’ but now it is all about doing something you enjoy. However, there are still many adults and children who are physically inactive. There are many reasons for this; lack of places to go, the streets are unsafe, the local green space is too far away or the gym doesn’t offer classes at the right time. Not everyone likes the gym, some prefer to walk, cycle or do their own thing on front of the TV.
Inactivity is killing our children and we demand that every child is given the fundamental #RightToBeActive.
80% of girls and 77% of boys are not active enough to stay healthy and one in five children are classified as obese before they reach secondary school.
Sport and recreation can help solve many of the biggest threats facing our children. Making it part of their daily lives will make them healthier and happier.
That is why I am are proud to be supporting the #RightToBeActive campaign and we encourage you to join us.
Please join the S+RA #RightToBeActive campaign http://ow.ly/DZue30m9Kr9
It is their call to government to give every child the fundamental right to be physically active and they are creating a long-term, properly funded and child-focussed strategy to transform the physical and mental wellbeing of our children.Together we can create a better, healthier and happier future for our children.
There is so much in the news and social media about depression and loneliness but yesterday I was reminded that Mondays are to be looked forward to!
I was invited to give a presentation at the Cherry Lodge Cancer well living day. I have never been in a room with so much positive energy. My 30 minute exercise session just whizzed by and the room was buzzing with laugher, singing and happiness.
Roll onto my afternoon EXTEND class and we presented the Enfield Parkinson's Society with a cheque for £210.00 in memory of our dear friend Pat who passed away in April. A Fitness League member (as it was then) and a founder member of the EXTEND class she brought a smile to class even in the dark days when, despite her strongest attempts to keep active, Parkinson's was making life difficult.
In my 18 years of teaching exercise I have seen the reasons for exercise changing. Way back the ladies (yes ladies) used to go to the Women's League of Health and Beauty for exercise but also for female company during the day. With the housework, children and cooking it was 'their time' to be themselves to make friends as well as enjoy the exercise. Roll onto 1976 the one of the main priorities of an EXTEND class was to make friends and maintain a social life.
Somehow, the social value of classes got over looked as exercise became something you did to keep the doctor happy, to prevent illness, for rehab. It became about Stroke rehabilitation, fall prevention, obesity and 10,000 steps!
Social wellness is not a new buzzword, it is something I, like so many other exercise to music teachers, have been doing every week. Just pop along to any class and you will see what I mean - every teacher will complain that it is impossible to start on time as everyone is chatting - and after all- that is what we want!
"National Fitness Day is a chance to highlight the role physical activity plays across the UK, helping us raise awareness of its importance in helping us lead healthier and active lifestyles.
National Fitness Day sees a huge range of activity options enjoyed by participants of all ages, such as ‘plank offs’, yoga and pilates classes, treadmill challenges, high-street HIIT classes, dance-offs, mass walks and many more."
Planks? Treadmill? HIIT? If that is not your thing then try a Medau Movement class - in fact, one lady said my class was perfect for 'ladies of her age' as the gym was intimidating and no one looked like her!
On Wednesday 26th September we will having our usual Medau Movement class at Elm Court. Those who come to class say that they enjoy it as it gets them out of the house, encourages the whole body to move, gets the muscles and the heart working as well as a good place to make friends. At the end of the session we are running (at a gentle dancers pace) the length of the hall without thinking about it!
National Fitness Day is a great day to promote Medau, EXTEND and any other activity that gets you moving. No time for a class? You do not need to go to the gym to work the body - just a few minutes dancing to your favourite songs in the privacy of your own home every day is enough.
Today the BBC led with a story that a 'WHO report estimates that more than a quarter of people worldwide - 1.4 billion - are not doing enough physical exercise, a figure that has barely improved since 2001.'
I am not really surprised that people find it difficult to increase their daily activity - we all found it easier to sit on the sofa rather than walk round the block in the extreme heat of the summer months and soon the chilling winds, rain and frozen pavements will encourage us into winter hibernation. There needs to be signposts to classes and activities that people can relate to - images of people just like them enjoying exercise that they can enjoy. We all enjoy different things and we all have many different 'boxes' to tick.
So, during National Physical Activity week bring a friend to a Medau or EXTEND class and see if it is 'the something' that ticks their 'box' and gives them 60 minutes of physical activity each week!
Exercise With Tracy
EXTEND Exercise and Medau Movement teacher. Keeping the muscles working, the joints mobile and having fun!