100-year-old Joe Wicks fan hailed “an inspiration” for workout video

One Joe Wicks fan proves it’s never too late to start exercising, celebrating her 100th birthday with a workout.

A 100-year-old woman has been hailed an “inspiration” for her dedication to a weekly exercise regime. 

Mary Cornefert started doing Joe Wicks’s online workouts during lockdown, and still enjoys weekly sessions – according to the fitness trainer himself. 

Wicks – who goes by the name The Body Coach on his social media channels – took to Instagram last week to wish Cornefert a happy 100th birthday, sharing footage of the centenarian enjoying one of his senior workouts. 

The short video sees her marching on the spot, using a walking frame for stability. An accompanying photograph shows the 100-year-old smiling proudly as she shows off the customary birthday card she received from King Charles. 

In the post’s caption, Wicks said Cornefert proved that “it’s never too late to get moving” and told his followers, “If this doesn’t inspire you then nothing will.” 

The post soon went viral, garnering over 82,000 likes and more than 2,000 comments, with many fans echoing Wick’s sentiments. 

“You are a true inspiration to us all that you can stay healthy and fit at any age,” posted one follower. 

Another wrote: “Fantastic effort and a great role model to us all. A very happy 100th birthday Mary.” 

Wicks’s popular YouTube channel offers hundreds of workouts, some of which are specifically tailored to older people.

Of course, keeping fit as we age has many benefits, including helping to maintain mobility, and protecting against joint issues, injuries and possible falls.

Not only that, but exercise makes us feel good, releasing endorphins (the happy hormone) and boosting serotonin levels.

Why it’s good to keep moving as we age

It’s proven that exercise can help you live longer researchers at Brigham Young University in the US found that regular exercise reduces ageing of cells, and high-level exercisers (those who undertook 30-40 minutes of running, five days a week), had a nine year biological advantage over those who were sedentary. 

Another study, from the University of Iowa, found that people in their 60s sixties and 70s sixties who fulfilled the recommended 150 minutes per week of physical activity lived longer than those who didn’t, but the greatest benefit came to those who combined regular cardio exercise with strength training once or twice a week. They had up to a whopping 47% lower chance of dying of any cause (apart from cancer) than those who were inactive. Those who did strength training alone lowered their risk by 9-22% and those who just did cardio exercise lowered the risk by 24-34%.   

The NHS recommends that all adults do some kind of exercise every day, including activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility on at least two days a week, as well as 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic or cardio exercise (or 75 minutes if it’s vigorous activity). You can exercise in short intervals (such as a walk to the shops) or longer periods, like a bike ride or a swim.  

It is also recommended that we reduce periods of inactivity, which means however tempting it is to spend an afternoon or evening watching your favourite TV programmes  you should try to get up and move a little in between.  

As well as helping you live longer, exercise can do all the following (and more!):  

  • Improve heart health 
  • Reduce blood pressure 
  • Aid weight loss 
  • Reduce or even reverse type 2 diabetes 
  • Prevent loss of muscle mass 
  • Protect against osteoporosis and osteoarthritis (particularly strength training)  
  • Improve balance 
  • Improve flexibility 
  • Help you sleep better 
  • Improve mental wellbeing 

How to keep moving like Joe Wicks’s 100-year-old follower

At Saga Exceptional believe it’s never too late to start exercising, and as Wicks points out in his post, Cornefert is a great example of this.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been into exercise, or if you’ve let your fitness slide in recent years. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are, how fit or unfit you may feel – you’ll never regret incorporating more movement into your daily life.  

If it’s been a while since you exercised, or if you carry any pre-existing injuries or medical conditions, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first. They’ll be able to advise you if there’s anything to be avoided.

If you have high blood pressure, for example, you should avoid lifting heavy weights overhead for a sustained period, and it’s not a good idea to attempt a marathon if you’ve not been running for several years.  

Stephen Gray is the owner of The DVCC, a chain of gyms specialising in fitness for people over 40. He has coached many clients in their seventies and eighties, and says he’s seeing an increase in people over 70 seeking out fitness advice.

He says the key is to start slowly: “Know that something is always better than nothing. The body responds fast, and with even the slightest increase in fitness, you’ll be able to do more – until you are doing things you didn’t know were possible. 

“The risk of injury may be slightly greater as you age, so the key is to increase activity slowly. You only want to go forwards, never backwards. The inactivity caused by injury is the most damaging thing when we get older. 

“At any stage of life, your body will respond to increased movement. If anything, the impact it has will be far more marked and dramatic the more mature you are. The difference you see in physical ability between those that are exercising compared to those that are not is dramatic. But as we mature, our exercise may look different to how it did in our earlier life.” 

Ideas to get started exercising in later life

Your current level of fitness and mobility will determine your starting point, and don’t worry if it’s not where you’d like to be. As Gray said, the body will soon adapt to increased movement and you’ll be able to progress, but we all have to start somewhere.

It’s a good idea to do movement patterns that we use in everyday life. For example, reaching overhead, squatting (think about how many times we stand and sit in a day), bending and twisting.

Here are some ideas to get going:  

  • Chair squats – “Getting out of a chair can be exercise,” Gray says. “Try to stand up and sit back down two times every time you get up. Then when this is easier, try three.”  
  • Stair climbs – Another pattern we use a lot is walking up and down stairs (especially if you have them at home). It’s a good idea to practice leading with the other leg sometimes to maintain dexterity on both sides. Adding a few more stair climbs into your day can really add up! 
  • Join an exercise class – Age UK offers a range of exercise classes across the country, which are tailored to different ability levels. There’s anything from chair-based exercise to the dance-based workout Zumba.  
  • Walking “Walking is a well-documented way of increasing activity,” Gray says. “Progressively challenging yourself in whatever you’re doing is how the body knows to increase its abilities, or not to let those abilities decline, so gradually increase distance, time or the complexity of the terrain you’re walking on to keep seeing improvements.”  
  • Home workouts – You could follow Cornefert’s example and do a YouTube workout in your living room. Try these seven best Joe Wicks seniors’ workouts as a starting point. These can all be done at home, with minimal equipment (a set of light dumbbells, such as the ones below, can be handy), and are all under 20 minutes. 

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Becky Fuller

Written by Becky Fuller she/her

Updated:

Becky Fuller is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, specialising in strength and conditioning for over 50s. Becky’s focus is helping people to become stronger both in body and mind, and to move well without pain. Becky also has many years’ experience working as a freelance journalist, writing for a wide variety of publications such as Screen Rant, Geek Feed, and Daily Actor. She also regularly reviews theatre productions for UKTW.

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