Margaret Weir and instructor David Ritsau demonstrate a typical exercise they perform in her fitness class at the SEAPARC Leisure Complex.

Lifelong fitness drives local senior

Two world wars, and the pains of old age still not enough to break one’s spirit.

Margaret Weir was never one to sit still. She walked. She ran. She cycled and moved around any way she could.

Today, she continues with her exercises, no matter how hard she has to work for it.

Oh, and she’s 97, making her the most senior participant in one of SEAPARC’s more unique exercise program, which is designed for the elderly and individuals with chronic health issues, such as multiple sclerosis.

The program runs for an hour once a week at SEAPARC Leisure Complex. During that time, participants perform standing exercises, some light weight training, as well as balance work and movement through the hips.

On average, there are around six to eight people in a class at one time.

Weir’s main goal in the program is not only to stay healthy and mobile, but to regain use of her fingers from arthritis so she can knit and paint again, her two lifelong hobbies.

And she’s certainly determined to win the battle.

“I want to get my fingers back. It’s why I like coming here, and I’m going to get it right even if it kills me,” laughed Weir, who’s been in the program for a year.

Perhaps it was an upbringing in England and by a Victorian grandmother that toughened her up, but in reality, it was Weir’s lifelong regime of constant physical exercise that made all the difference, regardless if it was in a fitness class, walking around or cycling, an activity she enjoyed doing quite often.

“You either cycled or walked everywhere, because there weren’t many cars around,” she said, adding that before the Second World War, there were fitness classes all around Portsmouth, England, her hometown.

“She’s still sharp, she keeps me on my toes,” chuckled David Ritsau, Weir’s instructor at SEAPARC.

He said much of the program’s exercises are done while seated, but that doesn’t make them any less intense, and that in retrospect, it’s easier to teach a group who accept their weaknesses and are keen on working on improving their strength.

“They all know their bodies, all accepted that they have different issues and that they still need to work and to move,” Ritsau said, adding that exercise is not only an age issue, it’s a capability issue and what the body can handle.

“They’re moving and activating their muscles more than the remote control.”

Much of the work in this program is done with an exercise band due to its versatility, allowing users to do the same exercise at different levels of intensity, such as pushing and pulling with the legs, shoulders and arms. Regular exercises include biceps curls, shoulder presses and leg presses.

Regardless of what the exercise is, Ritsau said it all comes down to one’s longevity and quality of life.

“The stronger and healthier you are, the longer you’re independent, the longer you’re at home and you’re less dependent on a medical system.”

Weir is certainly a standing testament to that, who, after nearly a century, remains physically active and continues to put countless couch potatoes to shame.

And she’s not even doing it to prove anything. To Weir, exercise is a constant game of staying active and keeping the mind preoccupied.

“If you don’t use anything, it goes rusty, so keep going all you can. [Exercise] makes your circulation better, and if you knit or sew, it keeps your brain going, so you’ve got all this time on earth, make the most of it.”

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