Push-ups and pushing fitness at 75

By Catherine Smyth
Producer, Health BBC News NI

Media caption,
Push-ups and pushing fitness at 75

"My mother and father had diabetes and were amputees. I've type two diabetes and I come to this class for health reasons to keep myself active - it has improved my condition immensely," said 73-year-old Dorothy Coulter

She has been a member of the WISPA (Women in Sport & Physical Activity) Wellness Class in west Belfast for two years.

Dorothy is one of a core group of around 20 who get together every Monday morning at the Shankill Leisure Centre.

Clad in workout gear and trendy trainers, they are similar to other fitness class participants.

Except in one rather special way - their average age is 75.

Image caption,
Belfast's WISPA gang say 'use it, or lose it!'

The WISPA group has been meeting faithfully for 14 years.

Far from taking part in just a spot of gentle exercise, these women are serious about fitness - doing aerobics and circuit training.

Dorothy said she has boosted not only her physical but mental health.

"My diabetes has improved, my sugar levels are much lower than they were. My consultant says - whatever you are doing, keep doing it.

"Mentally, I've always been an optimist but this has really helped me because when you retire your life changes. Now, I've met the ladies here and made a lot of new friends."

Image caption,
Isobel says there is a real camaraderie in the group

Isobel Wylie first came to the class eight years ago. She had been advised to take up exercise after a heart attack.

The group motivated her and sparked a genuine love of fitness, to the extent that this 71-year-old now regularly takes part in parkruns.

"I didn't know I could run until I tried it. I didn't know I could do circuits until I tried - and even though I say so myself, I'm good at it.

"I feel very good and socially it is great too - there is real camaraderie."

Image caption,
71-year-old Isobel demonstrates her fitness for the cameras

WISPA is a cross-community project that aims to provide women with affordable access to physical activity programmes.

It is funded by the Public Health Agency, the Department of Communities and Sport NI.

Project assistant Niamh O'Neill said people are never too old to start exercising.

"Our classes cater for all abilities. This group are quite special and, for their age, their fitness levels are fantastic.

Image caption,
Dorothy says the classes have improved her type 2 diabetes

"Some of them have come on in leaps and bounds and others have overcome illnesses and different disabilities.

"That's amazing to see, that exercise can play such a big part in overcoming those issues."

As for the women - they have a motto that they end their class with: "If you don't use it, you lose it!"