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Keep young and beautiful; Keeping healthy and active as a pensioner doesn't haveRachel Mainwaring looks at some more sedate and to mean trying to battle sweaty gyms or fast dance-moves. unusual exercise classes on offer for the elderly.

EVERY year, around one in three people over 65 and one in two over 85 will have a fall.

The risk of falls and fractures increases with age, including weaker bones and muscles and being less mobile.

But physical activity can play a crucial part in improving fitness and mobility as well as emotional wellbeing.

And Age Cymru says it's imperative that the over-60s have access to a wide range of social and physical activities.

Spokesman Iwan Roberts says: "It's never too late to start being more physically active, you can benefit from physical activity whatever your age.

"The physical and mental effects of regular exercise can help manage a lot of different health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

"The greatest benefits are gained when you start taking part in regular physical activity, even if you've been inactive for a while - you will notice the difference as soon as you begin." But while bowls, swimming and walking have long been associated with good exercise plans for older people, here are some other classes that are fun, as well as great for your health.

THERE are many groups and clubs which encourage physical and social activities and provide people with the opportunity to meet others, make friends, develop new interests, learn new skills and keep healthy. With the NHS advising that every adult should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, there are many activities pensioners can have a go at to aid wellbeing and fitness.

Nordic walking: This is a full-body exercise that's easy on the joints and suitable for all ages and fitness levels. It evolved from cross country skiing and you walk with the aid of poles which ensures your upper body gets a good workout as well as your legs. The poles also make it easier for older people to balance while they walk | Yoga / pilates: These life stretchers can lengthen lifespan, improve mindset and positivity and can be as effective as pummelling away at the gym for stress busting. | Water aerobics/ aqua zumba: This is a low-impact activity. It requires basic swimming ability as it's mostly done in water that's waist high or deeper.

Bowls: You can enjoy bowls at any age and with no experience, and it can be played all year round. Although not the most energetic of games, bowls is good for posture, flexibility, balance and hand-eye co-ordination.

The Ageing Well &Engagement Team, with support from Cardiff Local Health Board, have produced a directory outlining all the various classes and contacts around Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. For more information, contact Age Concern Cardiff & Vale on 029 2057 8372 or email ageing. EXTEND exercise classes: Wendy Joseph teaches a range of classes throughout Cardiff as part of EXTEND, a charity that provides gentle exercise to music for older people and for anyone of any age with a disability.

EXTEND classes always contain 20 minutes of seated exercise, and Wendy says people are often very surprised at just how much active exercise can be performed whilst sitting in a chair.

And she says its mission is to promote health, increase mobility and independence, improve strength, co-ordination and balance and to counteract loneliness and isolation.

"Older people can feel very isolated and nervous about starting an exercise class but gentle exercise is fantastic for improving mobility and preventing falls. As an instructor, it's wonderful to see people getting so much out of these classes.

"Spatial awareness can be improved which helps balance and mobility and that prevents falls.

"Many of my classes work with the feet. It can be as simple as moving backwards and forwards on the foot, then taking one foot off the floor, and then the other.

"Then we might move from side-to-side and diagonally, sometimes with scarves, which helps give people confidence and balance. Some people obviously get nervous, especially if they haven't been before, but it's amazing how quickly people take to it. It's fun, gentle exercising to music and it also gives people a chance to get to know someone new and relax with like-minded people."

EXTEND has many teachers who hold classes throughout Cardiff, in a number of settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, private residential homes, sheltered housing accommodation, village halls, sports clubs, day centres, special needs clubs and community centres.

Our qualified EXTEND teachers are trained in a unique way to make exercise fun but at the same time safe. Therefore, reducing the symptoms of age related conditions and improving mobility for those who have disabilities.

Wendy says: "Classes are held all over Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan during the day and it's a lovely way for older, more vulnerable people to get out and exercise, while having a cup of tea as well."

For more information, log onto QIGONG: It might sound like something you would order at a Chinese restaurant but Qigong is actually an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention.

Instructor Rob Withey, who runs classes in Penarth, says more than 80 million people practise it across the world and its benefits, especially for older people, are immense.

He says: "It has huge health benefits. It improves energy, agility and flexibility and helps strengthen joints and muscles.

It helps people of all ages to keep a healthy weight and rejuvenates the body, mind and soul, reducing stress and tension. It helps control emotions and has a fantastic meditative property." Qigong practices can be classified as martial, medical, or spiritual. All styles have three things in common: they all involve a posture, (whether moving or stationary), breathing techniques, and mental focus.

The slow gentle movements of most Qigong forms can be adapted for the physically challenged and can be practised by all age groups, making it the perfect exercise for the elderly and less infirm.

The gentle, rhythmic movements of Qigong reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. It has also been found to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions.

Rob says: "It has a wonderful meditative quality and if someone can free their mind of worry, that can be very relaxing.

It rejuvenates the body, mind and spirit. We have people aged from 50 to 70 in our classes and it's great for wellbeing."

Rob holds classes on Fridays in Penarth at the Glyndwr Community Hall from 1.30pm until 2.30pm and in Llantwit Major at the Old School from 4pm until 5pm. Contact 07828 034631 for more details.

ZUMBA GOLD: While the new keep-fit dance craze Zumba has swept the nation in the last few years, there's no reason for the over-60s to miss out.

Former nurse Sam Escofe. pictured, has introduced Zumba Gold in Llanrumney, Cardiff and it's proving a real hit. She says Zumba Gold is a specially designed form of the exercise which retains all the fun of dancing to high-energy musical rhythms from around the world but is lower impact and less intensive and so kinder to ankles, knees and backs.

And her class of ladies, with ages ranging from 50 to over 80, indulge in everything from hip hop and salsa to bhangra folk and belly dancing.

Mum-of-one Sam says: "It incorporates all the principles of Zumba but with a much lower intensity. I originally set up the class after being part-funded by Age Concern and it's proving very popular. It's very similar to a regular Zumba class but obviously at a much more sedate pace so everybody feels that it is manageable and enjoyable.

"I usually get about 18-20 people a week and it is a great way for them to strengthen their mobility and movement. Some have never done exercise before or haven't done a class since they were at school so it's important to make it fun.

"Obviously, it's not as hardcore as the normal Zumba but I do play modern music and there's no wartime music! It's mainly women who come to my class but it's for men too, for all ages and all levels."

Sam holds classes at the Royal British Legion in Llanrumney on Mondays at 1.45pm and at All Saints Hall, Victoria Square, Penarth on Mondays at 10am and Thursday at 11.15am. Classes resume on November 12. Contact 0759 466 0991 for more details.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 17, 2012
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