Home | Specialty Focus | ‘You don’t use it, you lose it’: 79-year-old’s gym journey changes her life
Barbara Hale working out at the Senior Gym.

‘You don’t use it, you lose it’: 79-year-old’s gym journey changes her life

Barbara Hale found herself in pain due to several health conditions, such as osteoarthritis in her spine. However, a trip to the Uniting Westmead Senior's gym in 2021 has led to life-changing results.

The 79-year-old's consistent gym routine now has her walking 10,000 steps a day. A recent gym assessment reported Ms Hale's upper body strength increased by 18.5 per cent and her lower limb strength has improved by almost 50 per cent.

Ms Hale also felt her pain was easing. 

"I was actually talking to my daughter last night and told her 'I'm not having as much pain', which is good," Ms Hale told Aged Care Insite.

"This wouldn't have been possible without going to the Seniors Gym regularly."

"I feel I am doing as much as I can; I'm 79, and I hope I can keep doing it for much longer."

ABS estimated almost 15 per cent of Australians have arthritis, with 9.3 per cent having osteoarthritis, a chronic condition characterised by the deterioration of the cartilage that overlies the ends of bones in joints.

Osteoarthritis increased sharply for Australians over 45, with 22 per cent having the condition. 36 per cent of adults over the age of 75 have osteoarthritis.

Barbara Hale (left) discussing her gym routine with Daniella Mascaro (right), Uniting's exercise physiologist

Ms Hale encouraged other seniors to join the gym, emphasising that you need to start slowly.

"Do your own pace; you don't have to come into the gym and be standing upright and doing all the exercises like other people because that all comes with practice," she said.

"It does appear that some people aren't comfortable coming to gyms or exercising, but you know the old saying – you don't use it, you'll lose it."

Elly Williams, Uniting Service Manager for the Seniors Gym, said it was especially important for those over 60 to get involved in exercise – no matter how daunting it may be.

"Physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health and is a protective factor for diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer," she said. 

"It can not only keep you healthy for longer, but it can maintain your balance to reduce the risk of serious falls and help maintain independence."

"Our primary aim or mission for the gym is to keep people independent and within their homes for as long as possible."

Ms Williams said strength training was the number one intervention that can help those aged over 50.

"From the ages of 40 to 70, you can lose up to about 25 per cent of your muscle mass."

"If you're not doing something to address the loss of muscle and bone as you age – particularly women from our thirties, we hit our peak bone mass then – you're never going to get any more."

"So when using the specialised equipment at our gyms, you're targeting the reduction of the loss of bone mass as you age and preventing that."

Uniting Seniors Gyms are in Lilyfield, Westmead, Beverley Hills, Waverley War Memorial Hospital, Normanhurst, Chatswood, Gerringong, Orange and ACT's Gordon.

A new seniors gym will be opening later this year in Leichhardt.

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