SENIOR citizens are changing the way we view retirement. It’s no longer the image of a elderly man sitting at home reading the newspaper or a senior woman pottering around in her garden. Today, seniors are enjoying an active lifestyle and that includes exercising daily.
Former dentist Zubaidah Ahmad, 63, never exercised until she had a fall and broke her hip bone. At the most, she might have gone for a walk in the park. She always watched what she ate, stayed away from carbohydrates, but didn’t really see the need to exercise.
She was never a gym person although she joined once or twice but typically defaulted on the membership after a few months. She didn’t like the treadmill and was not comfortable at the gym.
Four years ago, when she went back home to Penang for Hari Raya, she had a fall.
“I missed three steps and really flew. I sustained a hip fracture. At first I didn’t know I had a hip fracture. So, my family moved me and I went up the stairs, but four hours later I just couldn’t move. The pain was so agonising. Then the ambulance came and took me to the hospital. I was operated on immediately. I was very lucky that my fracture remained intact despite my moving around,” explains Zubaidah.
Because of that, she has some screws in her pelvis and leg. She moved around minimally after surgery and had to use a walking aid for rehabilitation. In the seven months after the fall, she put on 6kg.
“That shows with inactivity you really can put on weight. I was so miserable. That was the turning point for me. I’ve never really had a weight problem. So, to put on 6kg was something big for me. I was slow to start on my physiotherapy as well. I was so miserable and one of my friends said she would take me to an all-women’s gym.”
She started going to the Curves gym in March 2013. Zubaidah counts herself lucky that when she joined the all-women’s gym, one of the trainers was a trained physiotherapist. She was the one who took care of Zubaidah and instructed her on what she could do and to what extent.
“The first day at the gym, they took my weight and measurements and told me I had to lose 10kg. I was so overweight. I told them, you are crazy. How can I lose that type of weight, especially at my age. They said they would give me one year. So, I thought okay that seems achievable.
“From that moment, I thought I owe it to myself to do this. I don’t know what happened but I became so geared up and motivated that I switched my diet totally and started going to the gym five days a week. I was on steamed food for lunch and grilled food for dinner. I bought an air fryer which extracts the oil from the meats.
“As I kept going to the gym, I could see my weight going down and I was reducing in inches. That made me even more motivated. After six months, I lost 10kg and 55cm! It is quite an achievement for someone my age because as women age, our metabolism slows down.”
She kept working hard to stretch her muscles because her aim was to be able to get down on her knees to pray. Her husband promised to take her for umrah if she succeeded and that motivated her even more to exercise and stretch her thigh and hip muscles. She did achieve it and her husband delivered on his promise to take her to Mecca.
Zubaidah has found that besides losing weight and inches, her energy level is much higher now.
“As you work out, you get more energetic. I’m not one of those people who moves slowly but I can see that I am more energised now. The gym gives me something to look forward to when I wake up and I’m a people person so I enjoy meeting a lot of people at the gym,” says Zubaidah, who makes it a point to go to the gym 3-5 times a week.
Retired teacher May Choo, 67, also started exercising late in life. Just like Zubaidah, she only started exercising after sustaining an injury.
“My mother never exercised so I thought I too didn’t need to exercise. I was lazy and occupied with my job, and the people around me didn’t exercise as well. Later on, I had knee pain and felt so down on life. My doctor and physiotherapist said that I needed to exercise and that’s how I started,” she says.
Choo started exercising at the age of 48. She started with stretching and line dancing. Now, she has stopped everything else and is just focusing on the gym, which she goes to 4-5 days a week.
“When I first started the gym, I also started going to the chiropractor, and he gave me a list of things I couldn’t do, and it included exercising! At first I thought I was in a bind because I had just signed up for a one-year programme at the gym, but luckily it was okay. I kept going to the gym and one year passed by so fast with no problems.
“I feel the gym is good enough and I don’t need to go for other workouts because it exercises all the major muscles. Being an all-women’s gym, we don’t have to care about how we look while exercising,” says Choo.
When she first started working out, there were a lot of aches and pains, especially when she stretched her muscles. But thankfully, there were no injuries.
“I knew that if I pressed on, the pains would go. So, I continued and I think it has been for the better. I think I am stronger now.
“It’s a top priority for me. After I have my breakfast, I come to the gym. I make it a priority. As I am retired, I have no work commitments and house work can be shelved for a little while.
“I believe exercise is a daily affair. We eat every day, so we have to exercise every day, too. I think if you want to live a healthy life you have to exercise,” surmises Choo.
Zubaidah agrees that it is very important for seniors to exercise. She believes that if you don’t take care of your body as you age, you will become prone to chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension.
“I’m a very positive person. If I want to do something, I give it my all. So, since coming here, I have given it my all and I think I have seen the results,” adds Zubaidah.