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I’m still nimble at 90...and it’s all because of my love for aerobics
SHE’S as nimble as a cat and has the wrinkle-free skin of a woman half her age.
At 90 years old, Thelma Knights put her vitality down to her lifelong love of aerobics.
She was a devotee of Britain’s first health guru Eileen Fowler, who lived in Horndon and died, aged 93, in 2000.
Thelma continues to do a vigorous weekly exercise class to keep her fit and agile.
She says: “I have been doing aerobics for many years and I credit it for keeping me fit and healthy into old age. I can still bend down to do the gardening, I walk a lot and I never sit down – or so my husband Ted tells me!”
Thelma, who lives in Colchester, grew up in the days before gym memberships and the high-impact aerobics we know it today.
She followed the Eileen Fowler programme of ladylike, but demanding routines which operated around many local factories across Essex.
From 1934 to 1945, Eileen set up village classes at sixpence a go, but news spread around the UK and she went around the country organising outdoor pageants. In 1956, Eileen launched the Keep-Fit Association, before moving on to television.
Thelma says: “Eileen’s exercise philosophy had a big impact on me and I organised weekly classes at the chemical factory in Luton where I worked as manager of the typing pool. Me and my team would meet each Tuesday for the classes and they were as much of a social thing as exercise.
“The love of aerobics has stayed with me my whole life and I couldn’t imagine a time when I didn’t do it.”
Thelma was an active teenager and loved playing sports like netball, where she played goal defence, and she took part in track sports like hurdles. She started full-time work at 18 and saw the factory change dramatically during the Second World War.
She says: “Lots of the men left the UK to go and fight and the women were left in charge to run the factory.
“It was a very active time and when we weren’t working, we were busy helping with the war effort. We were also rationed with food, so there was no way to overeat. It was not hard for people to stay fit and slim at that time.
“It wasn’t easy looking glamorous during the war.
“I loved to dress up, but clothes were rationed. Luckily my aunt Doris, who lived in Yorkshire, was a great seamstress. I can still remember the thrill of receiving a parcel from her in the post and opening it to find a new dress for me!”
After the war, Thelma enjoyed organising and taking part in annual work fashion shows.
She says: “Local fashion stores donated clothes for us to model and it was fun to dress up and have our hair and make-up done.
“I always enjoyed being glamorous and it was nice to work for a company that held those types of events.”
Thelma continued to go to Eileen Fowler classes and she even took part in one of the outdoor pageants where she performed in a black leotard.
When Thelma moved to Colchester, the first thing she did was to find a Keep-Fit Association.
Thelma says: “Straight away, I found a class in Greyfriars Hotel, in Colchester. My teacher Iris Jones trained with Eileen and I ended up going on an exercise holiday with her to Spain one year.
“She was a great inspiration to me and many others.”
Thelma decided to up her exercise regime at the age of 79. She says: “I started to gain weight and was over 11 stone. I wanted to lose it so I joined a Rosemary Conley class.
“Part of the class is an aerobics session. It was the first time I had ever done high-impact aerobics and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I did and it was exciting!
“It helped me lose weight and get fit and I am now 10 stone two pounds and I feel so much better.”
Thelma believes that being agile has helped her overcome injuries in old age.
She says: “I had a terrible fall in 2011, where I fell 14 steps after losing my grip on the banister of a hotel. I bounced off the wall and fell down the stairs.
“Doctors said I would have died if my bones had not been so strong, thanks to the regular exercise.”
Thelma had to stop her beloved aerobics during her recovery.
She says: “I was out from class for a year after the fall, but the desire to go back drove me to get better.
“I did physiotherapy after the fall, but I had lost confidence. I felt unsure in my body and I have always been so confident. I did get it back though. It is as much mental as physical strength.”
She believes if you have the right attitude, you can achieve anything.
She says: “Aerobics is part of my life and I don’t let myself get out of doing exercise. I talk to myself and if I look out and see it is a dull day and wonder if I should go to class, I tell myself ‘yes, of course you should!’ It works!”
Thelma says she is naturally energetic and has a thirst for life.
She says: “In life, you have to have a positive attitude and keep busy. My husband Ted says I never ever sit down and it’s true. I like doing things, like aerobics, puzzles and gardening. Life would be boring otherwise!”
So, is aerobics to thank for Thelma’s beautiful smooth complexion?
She says: “My grandmother had wrinkle-free skin, so I think it’s partly genetic. At my Rosemary Conley class, they ask me what cream I use. It’s called Dermalogica.
“We also eat a good diet without rubbish. We like steak and dumplings and lots and lots of vegetables!”
Thelma goes to Julie Palmer’s class in Colchester. For details visit www.rosemaryconley. com
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