Light exercise group takes breather to mark milestone

You wouldn’t normally expect a fitness class to end a workout with food and cake – but the Raglan Light Exercise Group had special reason last week for a little celebration.

The occasion was the 25th birthday of an enthusiastic group that proudly claims it’s been “out there doing it since 1995 and still going strong”.

That makes the exercise classes – if you skip over a forced closure of several weeks because of the Covid-19 nationwide lockdown – the longest, continuously running group of its kind formed with the help of Sport Waikato.

Members worked out initially at Raglan Bowling Club, then the church in Taipari Ave. They now meet at St Peter’s Church Hall in Bow St, on Mondays and Thursdays. After the Thursday stint there’s a cuppa and a talk on “everything going on in Raglan”.

Total membership is around 50, with up to 30 enthusiasts at any one session. Some of them – a few in their 90s and many in the 70-80 age bracket – have been coming along for well over 15 years, and one from the very outset.

So why the longevity of the Raglan Light Exercise Group – and the consistent popularity of its classes?

“It’s all about maintaining mobility in our twilight years,” secretary/treasurer Graham Hubert told the Chronicle. The fit and agile 74 year old – a keen fisherman and gardener – reckons the twice-weekly sessions have been key to keeping him and wife Barbara healthy over the past 15 years.

But for length of membership, no-one can beat nonagenarian Renee Doig who began way back in 1995 and is still going strong.

Renee says nursing staff couldn’t believe her core strength when she was in hospital having a hip replacement.

Graham adds an optician was similarly amazed at the quality of his eyes. “We do eye muscle exercises,” he explains. “It’s those little things that help.”

Add to that the camaraderie enjoyed by the over-50s group and they’re all benefitting, he insists. “We just want to be strong and stable in our homes (as we age).”

Despite having built up an impressive collection of equipment over the years – exercycles, treadmills and rowing machines – the light exercise facility is not a gym, Graham points out.

Members get results through stretching bands and weights plus working ligaments, muscles, tendons and joints from neck to toes. “We know this makes a difference in daily lives.”

Central to the workouts is instructor Hinekai Gotty who is “very much aligned to our group”, says Graham, taking time to cater for individual needs. She has even taken a class or two to the local marae – at the request of kaumatua Sean Ellison – to show elderly Maori the benefits of light exercise.

The group was formed under the guidance of Sport Waikato and local medical professionals. Early on it got some financial help through a Waikato Health ‘Green Prescription’ initiative, and later it received a $2000 Raglan Community Board grant thanks largely – Graham recalls – to the efforts of then-councillor Clint Baddeley.

“We have never been back (to the community board),” says Graham proudly, although the group gets some sponsorship now from the Community Organisation Grants Scheme (COGS) which contributes around $2000 every few years to keep things ticking over.

It is also supported locally by St Peter’s Church, Raglan Sign Company, the Raglan Chronicle, Rock-it Kitchen and Meridian Energy.

Edith Symes

*Light exercise classes are held in St Peter’s Anglican Church hall on Mondays and Thursdays, 10-11am, $3/session. New members welcome.