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Watch: North Shore seniors break a sweat in 'elderobics' class

A mix of exercise and socialization has brought many to the class, some for as long as 30 years.

While the class is technically named Movement & Mobility, everyone calls it “elderobics.”

Not only does the moniker separate their class from the other Movement classes at Delbrook Community Recreation Centre in North Vancouver, it also gives them an identity, says Christine Colbow, who’s been leading elderobics for 38 years.

Plus the name has got a good ring to it. “It’s good marketing it seems,” Colbow said.

Stepping into the large room on a Thursday morning, there are around 30 bodies, all in constant motion: lifting weights above their heads, twisting their hips on exercise mats and occasionally holding onto a chair to balance themselves. The activity level is visibly high, especially considering that many in the class are well into their 70s, 80s and even 90s.

All the participants are facing the front of the room, where Colbow is calling out instructions and demonstrating the movements with exacting form. With a face beaming with sweaty perseverance, Colbow’s voice rings out with motivational energy that’s amplified by the fuzzy tones of a tape-deck stereo.

Toward the end of the hour-long session, many of the participants are struggling to finish their reps, but none look defeated.

After calling the class to a close, Colbow stops to chat with her friend Marian Tucker, who celebrated her 30th year in the elderobics gang in January.

“We’re like sisters,” Tucker said of their bond, which started with workout routines but has long since expanded into their social lives outside of the classrooms.

“I really enjoy it,” the 89-year-old said of the class. “I enjoy the sociability of it, and I enjoy working out.”

The enjoyment experienced by people in the class is also backed by science. Research strongly suggests that both social and physical activity are strong drivers of health among seniors.

It’s this mix of physical activity and fraternization that has brought new faces into the group, and kept others there for decades.

After the workout portion of the class wraps up, the refreshed participants gather at the back of the room where refreshments are laid out on special occasions – usually according to a theme. In early February, bright red tablecloths and envelopes herald the Lunar New Year. And in October, decorations wax spooky for Halloween, and the participants have a costume contest.

Instructor 'puts her whole self into it'

Colbow also remembers everyone’s birthdays, so many classes end up being celebrations, explained another participant, Verna Buchanan.

“And that’s good for seniors to have that social activity,” she said.

As a 30-year member of Gold’s Gym, the workouts led by Colbow are no joke, added Buchanan, whose daughter is the mayor of the City of North Vancouver.

“She does a lot of work – she has parties or gatherings for everything,” Tucker said of her good friend and class instructor. “She puts her whole self into it.”

For Colbow, who started teaching elderobics in 1986, it’s a labour of love.

“I get so much benefit out of it," she said. “It keeps my brain going not just physically, but also emotionally. I get a lot of feedback from all my participants every week, and I just love it.”

“And I impart that to other people. Because I'm no slacker,” Colbow said.

Correction: A previous version stated the class is called Movement, Mobility and Cardio 3, but it's actually called Movement & Mobility. The class is held Tuesday and Thursday mornings at Delbrook, and refreshments are available on special occasions only, a spokesperson said.

Marian Tucker (left) has been in the ‘elderobics’ class for 30 years. Over that time, she and instructor Christine Colbow have become good friends. | Nick Laba / North Shore News
Instructor Christine Colbow leads her group of participants through a weights exercise. | Nick Laba / North Shore News
Marian Tucker, 89, keeps pace with the elderobics class exercise routine. | Nick Laba / North Shore News

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