There's an old saying 'use it or lose it' and for the many participants of a special over 60 fitness program in Lawson nothing could ring more true.
The 11 classes a week are run by experienced instructor Markesha Hartshorn who structures a program to keep everyone moving and sociable - healthy in body and mind. They have been going since 2014.
Ms Hartshorn, a personal trainer, said the sessions are "structured with a focus on weight-based training to build strength and combat the effects of aging as well as improving mobility, balance and confidence".
"Classes on offer include over 60's strengthening sessions (beginners, all-rounders and advanced), core/band and stretch classes and barefoot training."
Kristen Krippner of Leura signed her 92-year-old mum Joy up about five years ago. She said it is now "one of the highlights of her week". Joy Krippner lives with her daughter and her son-in-law.
"Markesha is such a great instructor. We also like the structure of the program and the social aspects," Ms Krippner said.
"Over the years we have had a fair amount of experience with fitness instructors and feel she has tremendous rapport and empathy with class participants.
"She understands the challenges older participants face and goes out of her way to make the class enjoyable as well as beneficial. She also modifies moves to meet individual needs such as recovering from surgery, rehab stays or returning after an absence such as COVID lockdowns."
Ms Krippner said attending the weekly classes has improved her mum's strength and mobility and she enjoys the coffee mornings and lunches.
"This is critical as it improves balance reducing the risk of falls. The classes are also a great social experience. Social contact improves mental health and wellbeing ...this is particularly important as people age."
Joy survived a hip replacement two years ago, and credits the twice weekly sessions and also tai chi as the key to her quick recovery.
"I love the social contact and the exercise .. and it definitely helped after the operation," Joy said.
When another participant Maria Munoz joined the classes in 2016 aged 67 she was feeling overwhelmed at work and home and unfit.
"Markesha was welcoming, she explained that I should not push myself too much and cause injury ... to listen to my body," Ms Munoz said.
"Progressively I acquired more confidence and started doing walks on my own, walking at the same park, counting my laps, monitoring my heart, making sure I sustained its beats for longer, telling myself at the end of each practice 'Well done'."
She said a "welcome side effect were the friendships".
Getting fit also inspired her to join a group in Blackheath training to walk the El Camino trail, the Heart Foundation Katoomba Group and other walking groups.
"By March 2020 I was able to walk 28 kms in one day, either by myself or as part of a group. I had forgotten about being anxious or depressed; my cholesterol was excellent, I was 62 kilos (10 kilograms less)."
During the lockdown Ms Hartshorn ran online classes to help participants battle isolation.
"I wanted to keep my class participants fit while they were stuck at home; to continue their strengthening and mobility exercises and to help combat depression, anxiety and other age associated illnesses at such a hard time."
Located in Lawson, 60+ Strong Strengthening Exercise classes run weekdays at the Central Villages Anglican Church Hall. Go to: www.60plusstrong.com. Classes run with the school term for $90.
The YouTube channel is https://www.youtube.com/c/60PlusStrong.
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