On a Tuesday or Thursday morning, Instinctive Fitness Gym in Rotorua is full to the brim, everyone is over 65 and they are all having a great time working out, keeping fit and enjoying each other's company.

For more than nine months a group of koeke from Rotorua have been meeting for fitness training twice a week.

What started as a small group of five hitting the gym has become a 52-person workout class and 49.7kg of weight lost between them.

Pukaru Tinana was the brainchild of Rotorua Women's Health League members Laurie Morrison and Lorraine Rika, who had just begun working out at the gym.


The group is made up of men, women, Māori and Pakeha, the only rule is they have to be over the age of 65.

"I got talking to [Calvin "Mitch" Mitchell, gym owner] about bringing the koeke into the gym, but I knew most of them probably couldn't afford a membership," Morrison said.

"He said to me 'can they afford to pay $2?' and I said 'of course they can'."

She said this had all come about because of Mitchell's generosity.

Each class starts with a karakia, then the koeke take part in circuit training sessions, cardio and boxing classes, working collaboratively with Mitchell to address a range of ailments.

"There are a lot of people coming who are in their 80s and a few over 90," Morrison said.

"We have a range of health problems, like diabetes, emphysema, breathing problems."

Lorraine Rika (left), Lauri Morrison and Calvin
Lorraine Rika (left), Lauri Morrison and Calvin "Mitch" Mitchell are helping to keep Rotorua koeke fit. Photo / Stephen Parker

Ngamaru Raerino, 75, said the companionship and being able to work with other people were some of the benefits.


"I suffer from nearly every ailment you can think of: diabetes, I've had open heart surgery, gout.

"Being fit has given me a new lease of life."

Over on the bikes, Diane Raerino and a friend were working up a sweat.

"I like the setup and the friendships I now have with all the ladies and the guys.

"It isn't like all the young people where it's all about wearing the latest clothes, we get to wear our comfy clothes, nobody judges anybody.

"We all try and help each other out, it's social and fun and great exercise."

The group are now working towards new challenges; 25 of them have signed up to take part in the kaumatua section at Iron Māori.

Mitchell is also taking part in the Iron Māori and will be carrying a pack on his back which matches the weight the group have lost - they're aiming for 100kgs.

"I think there's a hole in the market for our elderly who just get neglected by the fitness industry," he said.

"It's still really important for them to keep healthy and active."

He said the koeke also had a massive influence on the younger generation.

"They really inspire them and some of these guys are pretty impressive.

"We've seen huge increases in their fitness and mobility as well."

The gym and Pukaru Tinana have now been nominated for the Community Award at the New Zealand Fitness Awards.