Exercise groups thriving as more retirees choose Raglan lifestyle

Two long-running recreational groups are reaching new heights – one quite literally – as more older people choose to retire in Whaingaroa.

Both Raglan Ramblers and Raglan Light Exercise Group have unprecedented numbers of enthusiasts meeting up regularly which, members of each say, is not only about maintaining health in older age but also connecting with others in the community. 

It’s not uncommon for the Ramblers’ mid-week walks – which take in Raglan, the wider Waikato and even further afield – to see 30 or more at any one time trekking the beach, traipsing across farmland or climbing mountains.

Meantime the twice-weekly exercise sessions indoors at St Peter’s Anglican Church Hall have similar numbers tackling treadmills and exercycles to keep fit and healthy.

Both groups are made up of locals not only in their 60s but also in the 70-80 age bracket, with some even into their 90s.     

Longtime light exercise group secretary-treasurer Graham Hubert (Hubie) says regulars of the group – set up nearly 30 years ago under the guidance of Sport Waikato and local medical professionals – were champing at the bit to get back into the health and fitness routines after a three-week Christmas/New Year break. 

Regulars depend on the hour-long sessions at St Peter’s for good health and balance, he says. And as a keen fisherman and gardener himself at 77, he knows well the value of keeping active.

The workouts are designed to prevent falls in older people, he explains, but the spin-off is in the social interaction. This is reinforced by the self-catered morning teas after each Thursday session, Graham adds. People chat and arrange to pick one another up if need be and friendships are formed.

 “We’ve been out there doing it since 1995 and we’re still going strong,” Graham says proudly of the weekly fitness regime. “We just want to be strong and stable in our own homes as we age.”

Meantime Ramblers’ stalwart John Lawson – who treks unfailingly every week in sandals, no less – says he’s observed in recent years a dramatic increase in numbers (having been part of the group now for more than two decades, although it started 10 years earlier in 1991).

He attributes the rise to the fact that older people from out of town now see Raglan as a desirable place in which to retire, and to more publicity through social media and the like.

There were only ever a handful of people early on, John recalls, and most walks or tramps were quite localised, venturing up Mt Karioi at times or perhaps as far as Kaniwhaniwha’s Nikau walk and caves in Pirongia Forest Park. 

But these days the treks have become more adventurous and also further afield – reflecting the need for variety, exercise and sociability.

While last week’s walk for instance saw walkers summit Te Uku windfarm via the old road (Vandy Rd), this week the Ramblers sandwiched a climb to the top of Rangitoto Island between return trips on Te Huia – the passenger train service between Hamilton and Auckland – and to the island and back by ferry.

And thanks to gold cards, bee cards and AT HOP cards, public transport costs were kept to a minimum.

Next week the Ramblers will scale Mt Te Aroha’s 952m peak, while next month a visit to Arapuni is on the cards. That’s described in the online programme as “a chance to walk some of the Waikato River Trail, see the dam and cross the long suspension bridge over the gorge”.

*Raglan Ramblers meet Wednesdays on the corner of James and Wallis St at 9am before departure to the weekly destination which, if car-sharing, comes at the minimal cost of 10c/km. 

*Raglan Light Exercise Group meets at St Peter’s Hall on Bow St, Mondays and Thursdays, 10-11am, $4/session.        

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