This morning I had the pleasure of chatting to Cherry Marsh at the Allan Brewster Leisure Centre. At 69-years-old Cherry is no slouch. In fact, she has a fitness regime that most 20-somethings would balk at. She’s in the gym, with the Never2Old programme, three times per week and at the pools for a swim twice a week.
“This morning I did 46 laps” she boasts. She mixes freestyle with other strokes and water walking, “so it’s not all straightforward slog but it all counts” she adds. It certainly does count and it all contributes to forming the jubilant, healthy, good looking senior in front of me.
Cherry is an advocate for healthy living. She’s been a Weight Watchers leader for 30 years and she’s recruited a handful of comrades to the gym. Amongst her recruits is husband of 24 years, Bob. “I started in April a couple of years ago and he saw me having too much fun so he joined that May” she laughs.
Cherry had seen the gym, and its Never2Old programme, in the local Courier but hadn’t given it too much notice until a friend joined. Her friend seemed to be having a genuinely good time attending the gym at the Allan Brewster Leisure Centre so Cherry was inspired to give it a try for herself.
At the time she was working part-time so came to the gym twice a week. But has since retired from her day job (though she still remains active with Weight Watches) and is now able to attend the gym three times per week.
Having always been a relatively active person Cherry has thrived on the Never2Old programme. She’s always enjoyed walking but says the gym environment gives her opportunities that pounding the pavement doesn’t.
She has met many friends of similar age in Never2Old, she’s diversified her fitness regime, and she loves the social side of the programme. “The simple pleasure of having a cup of tea after a workout with all the others doing Never2Old is lovely” she says.
Never2Old is a gym-based fitness programme specially designed for those over 60-years. It focuses on functional easy-to-follow exercises to achieve and maintain active and independent lifestyles. Participants are taken through stretches, resistance exercises using gym machines, and often finish with popular dance-type movements.
But you don’t have to be a model of good health, like Cherry, to join in. Regardless of ability or fitness all older adults would enjoy doing exercise at their own pace, says Cherry, “Some participants can only manage once a week and do little more than stretching and easy movement. But what’s important is that they’re there, they’re doing it, and they’ll reap the benefit of maintained mobility not to mention socialisation.”
Like many woman her age Cherry is impeded with osteoarthritis. But rather than letting it slow her down, Cherry has followed the doctors’ advice to maintain her active lifestyle. She’s says the swimming helps, “It’s non weight bearing exercise so my left hip – which is the acute point of my arthritis – isn’t stressed”. She’s at the Papatoetoe Centennial Pools religiously twice a week, where they have indoor pools as well as an Olympic length outdoor pool so she can swim rain or shine.
Her intention in joining the gym was to keep fit. A simple goal, that sounds easy, but for many as the years wear on and bodies become slower and sorer it feels unattainable. “I had always walked but never in my life thought I’d join a gym!”
“The way we eat is not a diet. It’s a lifestyle.” Cherry has come a long way from the large lady with high blood pressure that joined Weight Watchers back in 1984. She was moved to attend her first meeting after a friend, the same age and overweight like her, suffered a heart attack.
Despite her intention to be a participant only by 1985 she had become a leader by default with the other Weight Watchers trainee pulling out half way through the course. And 30 years on is still helping people, of all walks of life, from within her community achieve weight loss and healthy lifestyles.
In addition to her beloved Never2Old gym sessions, Cherry also makes sure she’s eating the right food. “I make everything from scratch. We don’t do takeaways. We didn’t have a kitchen for six weeks and I still managed to cook!” laughs Cherry. Husband, and keen gardener, Bob is chief in charge of growing the couple’s vegetables.
The Never2Old programme at Allan Brewster Leisure Centre’s gym is popular with local seniors attracting up to 33 older adults to each class. For more information about the Never2Old programme please feel free to talk to any of the friendly staff at the Allan Brewster Leisure Centre on Tavern Lane, Papatoetoe.