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Elna Forsyth in action

Get Moving: ‘Once you stop, everything stops’

“As a child I was always the last to be picked for any sports teams, however now I would like to be an inspiration to all people to stay active,” said 84-year-old Elna Forsyth who was nominated at this year’s Ealing Sports Awards.

Elna Forsyth, of Ealing, was dubbed a local inspiration for her dedication to staying active. Among other things, she practices pilates and Shaolin-style Tai Chi Chuan and reflexology.

She told us: “Throughout my life, I’ve always been on the go. Whether it be through my career as a teacher in adult education, or personal life, I have always been very active.

“The key behind me staying active is the stimulation that it brings mentally and the physical aspect of keeping my muscles energised. A strong mind leads to a strong body, and both are vital; not only for my own wellbeing but also being there for my family.”

On life after retirement

Elna said: “When the time came for me to retire, I just felt like nothing should change. It wasn’t in my nature to relax and stay indoors. In fact, since I had more free time on my hands, I wanted to experience new things and challenge myself to accomplish new goals.

“Retirement can be a lonely time, as essentially you must adjust to a new lifestyle. I would urge anyone that is feeling lonely to pick up a hobby and join a club as you meet like-minded people, remain social and fit. It also gives me something to look forward to.”

Reflexology, martial arts…and gardening 

Taking up martial arts is just another step of her adventurous, engaged lifestyle; she also attends pilates classes, and keeps fit through gardening. Walking into a class with much younger people and getting started with a sport that is not the usual choice for people in their 80s takes courage and dedication. There is no difficult move that Elna will not try, and she has developed a huge amount of agility and balance when practicing her forms and is also valued as a highly spirited ‘sparring’ partner.

“I fell in love with pilates around 15 years ago when I realised the effect that it was having on my body,” she said. “My body felt looser and naturally I became more inclined to pick up more activities. Three years ago, I had my first Tai Chi Chuan training session and it was honestly one of the most difficult things that I had done. I was determined not to give up and I have so many supportive people that encouraged me to keep going and for that I’m grateful.”

Adults should have 150 minutes moderate activity a week – that does not need to be two-and-a-half hours of sport. Just walking briskly for 10 minutes counts towards it. In fact, all activity that raises your heart-rate counts, including things like gardening, walking or playing with children in the park.

“In my spare time, I love spending time with my grandchildren and gardening,” said Elna. “In my back garden, I grow my own flowers and grow my own vegetables, including beans, courgettes, tomatoes and herbs. Gardening for me is completely therapeutic, I think it’s the beauty of watching things grow and the perfect activity for me in my downtime. Plus, I love producing home-grown fresh vegetables.”

‘Once you stop, everything stops’ 

Elna is a role model for all those around her and is always ready to share her experience with others. She said: “My advice to not only people my age but everyone would be to keep going. It’s never too late to continue growing physically and mentally. Once you stop, everything stops.

“I would like to be an inspiration to all people but especially those who are 70 or 80 years plus to take up a sport or physical activity.

Anyone can get moving and be more physically active and Elna is testament to that. There is a growing number of venues offering sessions and classes aimed at older adults right across the borough. From yoga and pilates, to aqua and circuits, there is something to suit everyone at the borough’s sports facilities. In addition, sessions aimed at people of all different ages, levels of fitness and ability, and free outdoor gym equipment is available in many parks. For more information on how you can Get Moving or to find a sports facility near you visit ealing.gov.uk/sports.

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