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Wednesday 27 September 2017

It's National Fitness Day - and we're dancing, riding and rowing!

Today (Wednesday) is #NationalFitnessDay in the UK and Is This Mutton? has been talking to some vibrant over-40 women who have passions for many different sports and pastimes which give them joy, as well as improving their cardiovascular fitness.


Ballet and tap dancing keeps over 50s blogger Jacqui Berry fit

Jacqui Berry, an over 50s fashion blogger at Mummabstylish, put on her dancing shoes three years ago and now goes to ballet and tap classes each week. And increasingly, it's women of our age who are taking up dance. Says Jacqui: "Being one of the youngest in the class, we have a chat and catch   up, plus I've also taken part in a show which was fun, terrifying but fun!

"I love doing exercise and how it makes me feel. It's not a chore and I wish I could spare more time for my hobby."

After a dance class, Jacqui loves the feeling of being energised and alive. "I have a 'good' ache when I've finished the class.  It's better to have a that rather than feeling aches and pains because I done nothing but sit down. It's so much better for you to keep moving!"

Gig Rowing

Finding rowing was a life changer for Wendy Pompe, (second from the right),  a teacher in North Cornwall. "Finding rowing was one of the biggest things in my life. Being out on the sea is a privilege and makes you a happier human!"

She rows on the sea once or twice a week, play hockey once a week and row on the ergo (static rowing machine) once a week. Including travel, this adds up to around 11 hours a week.

Wendy's partner also rows but for a different club, although he also uses the rowing machine at home.

Wendy always loved sport and rowing has improved her body shape, aerobic fitness and strength all improved.

"Rowing has given me the opportunity to take part in one of the biggest amateur events in the world, The World Pilot Gig Championships. Seeing 150 boats out on a start line and then being in the middle of the race is something to experience. And the 'raft up' to welcome the final race on Sunday back, is a brilliant party, accompanied by a lot of rum!"

Below:  The Great River Race - a marathon distance row 


Over 40s fitness fanatic Perveen Akhtar in the reformer pilates studio
Perveen Akhtar, a PR/Comms professional in London, spends three hours a week in the pilates studio. She says: "I do dynamic reformer pilates three times a week minimum and then try and get in my 10K steps a day walking and if I have the time will try and get a swim in as well.

Perveen used to spend time in the gym but didn't really enjoy it. "I used to go because I felt I had to. I now really love my exercise routine of pilates and swimming and it doesn’t feel like a chore. I look forward to my sessions. In fact I’m such a pilates obsessive that I’ve been on a couple of pilates bootcamp holidays to Koh Samui in Thailand where I do two hardcore killer sessions a day for 7-8 days!
PR and comms professional Perveen Akhtar loves pilates and swimming for keeping her fit and energised

Horse Riding

Tracey Stern, a senior marketer, spends three hours a week riding her horse Gillie-  as well as working out doing a variety of stable duties such as lifting hay and straw. She took up the sport 10 years ago and her attitude to sport has greatly changed since she found something she loves. "I was very grudging about sport in my school years! I also did spinning classes for a time in my 30’s – probably about 2-3 a week and loved those."

After her one hour rides, Tracey says she feels full of adrenaline: "Sometimes aching, sometimes tired (especially my back and muscles) , but with a fantastic feeling of achievement."

Tracey has noticed other benefits from horse riding. "My body shape has definitely changed since I started riding again, it is more toned and I am definitely fitter and probably a dress size lower as well."

All Rounder 

Lyndsey Jones from NE London used to do anything to get out of PE at school but now she's a fitness fanatic - and finds that her passion for sport is a win-win because not only does she love it, she's able to enjoy more treats as a result - chocolate and wine!

Lyndsey does a fitness activity every day of the week. On Mondays, it's kettlebells and stretch. Tuesdays: hills/track session & yoga. Wednesday: yoga & run. Thursday: yoga & a class or a run. Friday: spin class. Saturday: long run. Sunday: swim or bike ride - or collapse on the sofa.
Lyndsey is a member of a running club, the Orion Harriers, and has run the London Marathon as well as club races and a triathlon (pictured).She trained as an aerobics instructor at university but prefers participating to teaching.

Like many of us, Lyndsey's memories of PE at school aren't always positive. "I always felt it was forced upon me. And if you weren’t good at it you weren’t really included. You were always picked last in teams (hugely humiliating) or sent off to field somewhere the ball never came to you."

Nowadays, she looks forward to every session. "I never regret a session or run and I’m always glad I’ve been. It makes you feel quite fired up for the rest of the day if it’s a morning session. The exception is a long run -  then I just want to veg out for the rest of the day and consume my own body weight in food!"

But enjoying treats is no problem when you spend 10 to 15 hours a week exercising, and Lyndsey says the benefits have included weight loss, improved posture and a change in her shape since she started yoga.

Nordic Walking

Nordic Walking, where you use poles to give yourself a total body work out, is hugely popular in Is This Mutton's home patch where it's common to see the walkers striding out across Epping Forest.

Nordic walking instructor Nikkii Barnett took up the sport nearly eight years ago and walks the Nordic way at least an hour day. She is a great role model for the sport,  saying the benefits are many. "It's been fantastic for my mental health; really has given it a boost by being outside in nature! I'm definitely more toned and have increased upper body strength as well as core strength. My body shape has changed as I now have less body fat and more lean muscle tissue. My energy levels have also improved!"
A Nordic Walker for eight years, Nikkii Barnett has noticed huge improvements in her fitness and attitude
Nikkii says her health is her priority, and she is passionate about health and fitness. "I'm always looking for ways to optimize my health and I enjoy helping people to improve their health and fitness: I studied for several relevant qualifications that enable me to do this.

"As I'm getting an older, it's really important to do all that I can to be healthy now and in the future. A couple of mottos that really resonate with me are: 'health is wealth' and 'invest in your health'.

Two other Nordic walkers share their stories.

Dawn Branigan suffered a serious leg injury four years ago when her tibia snapped in two and the fibula exploded into tiny pieces. After surgery involving metal screws, she was encouraged to do lots of walking to strengthen the leg and foot. She had heard about Nordic Walking and found an instructor in Wanstead, Tim Hector, who had experience in remedial work. The 15 minute taster session was enough to convince Dawn to enrol in the four week "How To" course, which teaches the correct technique for Nordic Walking.

She is now in the Extreme Class which features a walk of between three and four miles in an hour, and resistance work using the poles to develop strength and stamina.  Says Dawn: "Although it has taken time, my left leg is now almost as strong as the right leg and I have re-learnt how to skip – something I could not do at all."

In addition she has effortlessly lost half a stone in weight, seen her asthma symptons relieved because the poles improve your posture, and relieved the tightness in her shoulders and neck caused by her job.
Nordic Walking in Wanstead has transformed the health of Dawn Branigan
Jean Maile, who was trained in Nordic Walking by Nikkii Barnett, takes a one hour class - a walk in Epping Forest - each week. Since she took up Nordic Walking two years ago, Jean has noticed phenomenal improvements in her health and fitness. "I have lost 2.5 stone in weight. I was also on medication for diabetes, cholesterol and thyroid. Since losing my weight I have also been told I can stop my meds. I feel fitter and happier with myself."

Inspired? Find your nearest class or instructor

Dancing: The Royal Academy of Dance
Pilates: Pilates Foundation
Horse riding classes: The British Horse Society
Yoga: The British Wheel of Yoga
Find a running club: UK Athletics
Nordic Walking: British Nordic Walking

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Sharing this post with Claire Justine and Not Dressed As Lamb, Saturday Share.

Have you found a sport /activity that you love? Do share in the comments.



  1. What a fantastic post Gail, thanks for the feature X One thing I get from everyone after completing their tasks - is a great, positive feeling of achievement. That can only be good for us! x Jacqui

  2. Absolutely! The key is to find something you love to do, rather than forcing yourself to do activities for the sake of fitness, and resenting the time spent doing it. Thanks for taking part Jacqui!

  3. You've put together a great post, Gail. Such vibrant motivated ladies, including our lovely Jacqui. And then there's me ... !

  4. I'm with the Pout. Actually walking is my thing as I hurt my knees running a few years ago. I used to be an avid dancer and swimmer and horse rider. All of those I used to do several times a week but commuting limits my ability so walking it is.

    1. No problem with walking, it burns nearly as many calories as running but kinder on the knees. I try to do a lot of walking.

  5. Great post Gail. My fitness is running. I took up ballet years ago after my Daughter was born and loved it. I have not been in years but would really love to try again :) Thanks for linking up to The Wednesday Blog Hop. Hope you can join me tomorrow for welcome to the weekend blog hop :)

    1. I'm tempted by ballet and dance but I know I'm not very good at it! I'd love to find a barre class.

  6. I didnt know that about Jacqui! Fantastic post, loved too read it!

  7. I'm trying to get into Yoga. I really need to put some time aside. A very interesting and inspiring read Gail xx

    1. ThanksLaurie! I love yoga but haven't been for a while - need to find a local class.


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