'I want to exercise till I'm 100'

Betty Shaw with one of her grandchildren

Betty Shaw, 93, from Hessle, East Yorkshire, has attended the same fitness class for over 30 years. She says exercise has been the key to helping her to continue living independently.

How active are you?
I consider myself quite active for my age. I live on my own and can do all the usual daily chores of cooking, cleaning and laundry by myself. I can walk to the local shops although I have just started using a walker when I'm on my own – more for confidence than necessity.

Describe the exercise that you do each week.
I have been attending the same weekly “shape-up” class, in a local village hall, for over 30 years – since I was about 60. The class starts with a weight check followed by exercise to music, including line dancing and the occasional floor exercise. The class lasts for about one hour and 15 minutes, of which the actual exercise session is no more than 45 minutes. This is continuous exercise, starting with a warm-up and finishing with a relaxing cool down. The exercises are gentle, consisting of bending, stretching, rotating all parts of the body to music.

What do you enjoy about exercise?
Going to the class each week and exercising makes me feel more lively and invigorated. The members of the group are mostly of retirement age and upwards – I'm the eldest and one of the longest serving members. We’ve all become friends over the years and are growing old together, although we do have new members coming and going all the time.

There are about 25 ladies in the group, and any funds generated are given to a local charity annually. We have a weekly raffle – the prize being something healthy like fruit packs, yoghurt or healthy drinks. We all go out for a meal and theatre visit once a year, which I enjoy very much and always look forward to.

Are you aware of the importance of being active as you get older?
I am, and I intend to keep going to my weekly class until I'm 100 at least! I try to walk as much as possible and use the stairs whenever I can rather than the lift. I always feel better for having had my weekly shape-up session and I look forward to going.

Have you always been an active person?
In my teenage years I used to regularly walk, cycle and dance. I also played a little tennis. Later, after my family had grown up, I started to play a bit of golf with my husband. We also took walking holidays together. When my oldest grandson was very young we helped to look after him during school holidays and initiated him into the golf as well. We would also play other ball games with him in the park.

What keeps you motivated to exercise?
The main motivation is the enjoyment of exercising. It makes me feel better generally and lifts my spirits. I always feel more flexible for having exercised. I can still touch my toes. The social aspect also motivates me to attend the weekly sessions.

Is being independent important to you?
Yes it is. I'm still able to live on my own and look after myself. My daughters are there for me and help with any more arduous tasks. I live in an apartment block for the over-55s with a 24-hour emergency pull cord “care line” facility. We also have a part-time house manager who organises various activities and keeps an eye on us all without being intrusive.

Do you watch a lot of TV?
I do try to avoid sitting for a long time as it can often lead to me having swollen ankles or cramp. When sat down, I often rotate my feet or put them up on a stool. I go to bed by 11pm and get up about 7-7.30am. I rarely lie down during the day – but may put my feet up now and again.

Apart from exercise, what else do you do to stay healthy?
I try to ensure I eat healthily and follow the 5 A DAY regime. I have three meals a day, my main meal being at lunchtime. I take daily food supplements and medication for my blood pressure. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the occasional glass of wine or gin and tonic. I also like to keep my brain active by doing cryptic and general knowledge crosswords and other puzzles.

What would be your advice to someone who is thinking about getting more active?
I would suggest they take a walk, or do some form of exercise every day, use stairs rather than a lift, join a local class for social activities or exercise. And keep moving as much as possible throughout the day. If they're not too good on their feet, using a walking stick or walker will give added confidence. 

Page last reviewed: 11/07/2013

Next review due: 11/07/2015

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