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VIDEO: Helping all ages to keep healthy, fit and active

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  • by Ellen Beardmore
 

There’s a lot that has been said about the need to keep people active in Sheffield.

But fitness fanatic Amy Wheeler is one of the people who works behind the scenes to make it happen.

The new mum has worked for Activity Sheffield, a team funded by the city council to help thousands of people dance, play sport and keep fit, for five years after offering her time as a volunteer.

Armed with a ghetto blaster, boccia sets and table tennis bats, she travels across communities to host dozens of activity sessions that get older people off the sofa and behind the ping pong table.

Former personal trainer Amy, speaking at a chairobics and games session at Beighton Miners’ Welfare Centre, said: “I really wanted to work with elderly people because I wanted something a bit more rewarding.

“Personal training was a lot about targets and money, working from 6am to midnight, and it was a bit of a brutal industry.

“Here there’s something different every day, you meet a whole range of people from all different walks of life.

“Some days I’ll be doing activity sessions and then be in a care home with a dementia unit where it is more about singing together – you see their faces light up when you put on all the old songs on.

“The rewarding thing is seeing their smiles and knowing that the session might be the only chance that some people get to talk all day.

“It has changed my view of fitness. When I was a personal trainer it was working with people who ran marathons but now fitness might mean being able to move your hands for some people.”

At Beighton the group sing happy birthday to one man before starting their exercise – a range of marching, arm and hand movements – to the strains of I Will Survive. A fiercely contested table tennis match goes on in the background.

The age of participant in the group ranges from 50 to 96 and some have become such firm friends they are planning a holiday together.

The physical benefits include an increase in flexibility, mobility and weight loss – as well as enabling people to get out and meet new friends.

And in the long run they help older people have more independence and increase their level of health.

It is a key concern for authorities as the population lives longer, with less funding to pay for their care in future.

Figures revealed earlier this year show the cost of treating health problems resulting from obesity alone in Sheffield could reach £165m per year by 2015.

And the Move More strategy aims to make Sheffield the most active city in the UK by 2020.

Greenhill resident Amy, whose job title is community activity delivery officer, added: “In the chairobics class we will tailor exercises that help when you are brushing your hair or reaching for a tin of beans high on the cupboard. It is more of a workout than it sounds!

“It’s all about keeping more people independent for longer which in turn prevents them from going to hospital as much.

“You can get the odd awkward customer but I really enjoy what I do so probably the most challenging thing is keeping it interesting for them.”

Activity Sheffield – which is based in Carbrook and also looks for other funding to increase its services – works with all age groups to offer sports as unusual as Zorbing, climbing and inflatable footfall.

Its team of 15 officers also aim to take sessions to the ‘doorstep’ of deprived areas for young people.

Older people can be referred to a class by their GP, or simply turn up and pay the £2 to cover venue hire costs.

Some OAPs are understandably daunted by the thought of taking a fitness class but become hooked once they realise it is a more relaxed affair.

Great gran Elaine Truelove, of Waterthorpe, was one of the first to attend the class and has now roped in her neighbours, friends and relatives.

The 67-year-old retired carer said: “Some of the people who come are going on for 90 – there’s something everyone can do.

“At first we had dominoes on to get them in, we’ve had a bit of boxing.

“I’m out busy every single day so this is the one thing I do for myself. It’s great to have a chat, a bit of exercise and get everybody together.

“There’s people here who have lost stones in weight and some who could barely walk before they came – and now look at them.”

Amy – a self-confessed ‘fitness nut’ who loves running, teaches spinning in her spare time and even runs circuits in the garden – gave one top tip for keeping active.

She said: “I urge people to try to do something every day, whether it is a walk to the shop or gardening, to get you breathless for 20 minutes because it makes your heart stronger.”

 

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