Walking Tall

14th March 2009

Optima Magazine meets Ida Symons, who offers a different take on getting fit, especially targeted at those no longer in the first flush of youth

Joining a gym can be an excellent way to get and stay fit, with a range of opportunities to build different forms of exercise into your routine…

Regular tennis and squash is fun, if you have the partners; swimming is excellent all-round exercise (if you like getting wet and dealing with your hair afterwards); pounding the treadmill or beating the target on the rowing machine can be invigorating (so long as you don’t mind being surrounded by fit young things in sleek leotards who hardly break into a sweat). It’s all good stuff, but the sad fact is that many people join a gym with great enthusiasm and determination, make the effort a few times, perhaps go regularly even for a few months, until gradually their enthusiasm wanes and they let their membership lapse. Maybe they feel intimidated, maybe uninspired – and then, because they cannot cancel their membership for a year, they feel guilty too! All too familiar?

Well, according to Ida Symons, there is another way to get fit – without feeling intimidated, without the need for a sleek leotard, and without getting wet.

Statistics show that a brisk 30 minute walk, two or three times a week, keeps depression at bay, improves your heart rate, increases your bone density and assists in weight loss.

Ida Symons

Ida (pronounced Eda) is 50 and a mother of two grown up children. Her love affair with fitness started at the age of 40 when a friend asked her to join her on a 5k run. They started training together, and, although they never did run that 5k, Ida enjoyed the training so much that she carried on with it. A few years later, that love affair with a healthy lifestyle had become a long-term relationship. She was, she says, a changed woman – organising a charity triathlon at a local health and fitness club, running in 10k races, running a half marathon (as recently as last October), competing in a Sprint Triathlon and an Olympic Distance Triathlon. She has recently trained as a Gym Instructor.

Ida explains that when she was younger she could never have imagined she would ever do any of these amazing activities – but she is now passionate about all the benefits of keeping fit and active, particularly as she is regularly told how ‘young and amazing’ she looks. What more could a 50 year old woman want?

As a result of her experience she’s confident that other people of her age, and older, can enjoy the health benefits that she’s gained. “You don’t have to be obsessive about fitness,” she explains, “and I would not expect anyone to do all of things I have done, but there is no doubt that regular exercise will help you to feel, and look fantastic.”

And how can we achieve this health nirvana? You guessed it: all we need to do, according to Ida, is to walk.
Sadly, this doesn’t mean a ten minute amble to the local café for a coffee and a cake, however, it means a proper, supervised healthy walk.

Ida believes that there are very few ‘proper’ walking groups in the local area, so has decided to put her skills to use by starting one. Joining a walking group is great fun, she promises – fresh air, companionship, and loads of health benefits. Ida will be there to watch over participants carefully – professional warm-up exercises, a 45 minute walk, and a proper cool down/stretch at the end. Those you wish can use a Heart Rate Monitor, to watch those calories burn away and see how the heart rate improves.

Fresh air and exercise… it’s been good for Ida; she’s certainly a great advertisement for her philosophy. The rest of us just need to practise what she preaches…

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