It’s never too late to keep fit and feel good

A client gets to grips with the Feelgood Centre equipment
A client gets to grips with the Feelgood Centre equipment

Youngsters have all manner of calorie-burning activities to keep them occupied and, above all else, fit this summer.

And there are scores of initiatives organised throughout the year by everyone from the Scottish Government right down to local community groups designed to get young people up, active and out of the house in this era of video game sloth.

But what about the opposite end of the scale – what is on offer for those getting on in years?

A quick answer to that question can be found through NHS Forth Valley’s Living It Up programme and a new fitness centre specifically geared for older people and those who fear mainstream gyms.

Living It Up is a three-year programme operating in five areas across Scotland which aims to help people age 50 and over improve their health and well being.

Currently in its initial stage, which will see the recruitment of 1500 test users, the programme is looking for feedback and suggestions from people and hopes to reach a community of 55,000 in Scotland by the end of 2015.

Forth Valley’s over-50s got a taste of Living it Up at an event run in collaboration with Falkirk Community Trust at Grangemouth Sports Complex earlier this year. Locals were invited to take part in everything from line dancing and Tai Chi to Otago and Sh’bam.

Ann Allison, Living it Up’s project organiser, said: “Our aim was to give people tasters of physical activities which they would enjoy and also keep them healthy and active. The turnout was great with people having such a good time trying everything.

“Hopefully from these tasters people will realise they can keep active and have fun at the same time.”

Also showing early promise in providing fitness opportunities for older people is the Feelgood Centre, in La Porte Precinct, Grangemouth.

The brainchild of co-owners Susan McMeekin and husband Kenny and Shirley Wyper and her husband James, the centre opened its doors just over two months ago and is already proving popular.

Shirley said: “Our membership is increasing rapidly, a lot faster than we expected. At the moment the centre has just over 70 members, mostly women, but there are also a few couples who come along together.

“It’s mostly the older people who come along. Due to the design of the machines, they are exceptionally good for people with medical conditions who cannot go to normal gyms.

“They may feel intimidated by going into gyms or they feel they just cannot use the equipment there. These Shapemaster machines are power assisted and give people a low impact, low stress workout.

“They are good for weight and inch loss. We are being told the workouts help people sleep better at night, help people’s posture, and improve their cardiovascular system.”

Shirley believes there are three main reasons people come to the centre – cosmetic, they want to look better, fitness, they want to get fitter or get help with physical and also mental problems, and then there is the social aspect.

She said: “Workout sessions can help those clients suffering from depression feel better about themselves and build up confidence and self esteem. It also helps when it comes to getting out of the house and meeting new people.”

The oldest member at the moment is 88 years old, but the centre has people in their 40s who regularly come in to use the equipment.

Shirley said: “Sometimes people are referred to a gym by their GP, so they go and they don’t like it. They feel it is not within their own capabilities so they don’t enjoy it.

“Then they come to us and we get nothing but positive feedback from them. While working out they feel quite relaxed, but by the time they leave they feel quite invigorated.

“This is called the Feelgood Centre and people walk out of here feeling good. Coffee and tea are available before and after workouts and relaxing mood music is playing throughout.

“We have our Feelgood Friday when we basically take requests on what music to play.”

And Shirley, Susan and team members Adele Divers and Mary Ivatt are always on hand to help and advise people.

The 12 machines in the centre work all of the body’s major muscles and by doing three minute sessions on each machine, people can get a total body workout in around 40 minutes and it is recommended they come in at least three times a week.

“The machines really sell themselves when you try them,” Shirley said. “Most of the members we have now are through word of mouth.”

Catherine Anderson (70) has been coming to the centre since it opened.

She said: “My legs have been a problem all my life, but it didn’t take long until I felt the difference using these machines. You get exercise and everyone here is friendly.

“You don’t have to come here with your gym gear on, you can just pop in before or after you do your shopping.”

And it is not just members who have felt the benefit of Feelgood Centre. Retired nurse Shirley suffers from arthritis and the Shapemaster machines have helped her greatly.

She said: “My arthritis was extremely bad, but it has eased off a lot since I started using the machines here.”

Mary also has nothing but praise for the machines, which helped her ditch her walking sticks.

“It’s definitely helped to strengthen my muscles,” she said.

The centre is now open seven days a week, including late nights on Tuesday and Thursday, to meet the large demand for the workouts.