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The falls and ill-health that can accompany ageing can be delayed with exercise, according to experts, and with about 100 fitness groups available for over-65s in Tauranga there is no excuse for being inactive. Sport Bay of Plenty recreation adviser for the Western Bay Jen Riley said it was a case of "use it or lose it". "It's better to wear out than to rust up, especially as we all get older," she said. "There's anything and everything really. Do something that's going to suit your mobility levels." Ms Riley said keeping active was vitally important to maintain strength, balance and prevent falls. Regular exercise also helped with ailments such as diabetes and arthritis. "I think as you get older, it's important to look after everything," she said. Cardio exercise was important for heart health and strength while core workouts would prevent falls. Keeping flexible would also help maintain movement. She said cycling was "the new golf" and recommended going for a walk, taking a low-impact class or doing aqua-aerobics. Papamoa resident Dave Maybury, 67, started going to the gym when he retired two years ago and has been a regular ever since. He spent about three hours working out and socialising at the gym three mornings a week and said it had made him feel healthier. "I've actually also been diagnosed with depression and I find it's a big help for that," he said. "It does become a social thing as well." Clubfit network club health manager Stu Stevenson said joining the gym was becoming increasingly popular with retirees. More than 40 per cent of the membership at the Greerton gym was over 65. "As you age, you lose lean muscle. That affects everything from your metabolism to getting up and down from a chair. People lose their independence. It affects their everyday life," Mr Stevenson said. Clinical exercise physiologist Nicki Brown set up the Ageless, Active, Aware programme at Ryman Healthcare's retirement villages in Tauranga and around the country. The group classes aimed to keep older people independent, fit and mobile, she said. "It's giving them the independence to do daily things [such as] being able to comb their own hair or lift their grandchildren on to their lap," she said. "One of the benefits we've seen come through is the social side of it. They feel happier and it helps them sleep and reduces stress and improves their appetite." Exercise had also been proven to help delay and perhaps prevent the onset of Alzheimer's, Ms Brown said. "Part of it is the increased oxygen flow to the brain with exercise. Exercise challenges the brain with co-ordination," she said.

Fun ways to keep fit Bowls Swimming Group classes Cycling Gym workout Park your car a couple of blocks from your destination and walk
Tauranga Ramblers president Malcolm Taylor said the club had members ranging in age from 5 to 95. Getting involved in running or athletics kept you healthy and often delayed health problems that resulted in costly medical bills, he said. Ramblers member Sid Pavett, 80, has run more than 30 marathons and is planning to take part in the upcoming Rotorua race. He ran his first marathon when he was 44 and has been running ever since. Mr Pavett said exercise was good for overall well-being and helped to fight illness. Tauranga YMCA Active Lifestyles co-ordinator Lynda Hitchfield said the organisation ran 13 classes for those over 65 throughout Tauranga and the Western Bay which attracted about 200 people each week. The most popular class, Smooth Movers, consisted of aerobic cardio, light weights, balance, core strengthening and increasing flexibility, she said. Yoga and Pilates were also incorporated into some classes. Sit and Be Fit was held twice a week and attracted high numbers at retirement villages. The class was done sitting down but still included cardio exercise, weights and resistance exercises. The average age would be 78 while the oldest participant was 92, she said. "I have seen first-hand how their cardio fitness and strength have improved to enable them to enjoy other activities in day-to-day life," Ms Hitchfield said. "Our classes also lead to improved flexibility and balance which are really important as we age." Body and Soul owner Dianne Mannington runs fitness classes for over-50s and had between 30 and 45 people in each of the four classes every week. When exercising, it was important for older people to get their heart rate up, do balance work and stretch their muscles, Ms Mannington said. "As people get older, if they are not going to stretch out, the muscles start to shrink. It's very important for balance that they do stretch as well," she said. "Exercise helps as far as people with arthritis, depression, type 2 diabetes, hip replacements, knee operations and shoulders." Working out with other people was particularly important for the elderly, she said. "It's being around people rather than staying at home behind closed doors. Exercise classes is only a part of it. The social side of it is important to help keep people connected with those around them." Age Concern chairwoman Angela Scott said falls and injuries were a real problem for the elderly and recommended group classes to help improve balance. The Age Concern walking group was a popular way to get out and about and socialise at the same time. "Even gardening, house work, just doing the normal things is good exercise," she said.