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Turning back the clock with an active life

Glen Pirie pounds the heavy bag under the supervision of trainer Kevin Reid. - Dan Ferguson photo
Glen Pirie pounds the heavy bag under the supervision of trainer Kevin Reid.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson photo

Glen Pirie and Sharon Young are halfway through an intense workout when a Peace Arch News reporter arrives to take a photograph.

Young is working up a good sweat on an exercise bicycle while her husband is blasting through a session on the elliptical trainer, looking as crisp as he did when he started his routine an hour earlier.

“He doesn’t sweat,” she says, enviously.

The 80-year-old Pirie also doesn’t cough the way he used to, a chest-rattling sound that was the result of lung damage he blames on demolishing asbestos-riddled buildings when he was younger.

In fact, he says he’s been able to amaze his doctor by improving his lung capacity.

“My lung specialist told me I no longer need annual visits,” Pirie says.

The 70-year-old Young says the regular workouts are more than a matter of weight management for her. She recently went through a knee replacement and credits her level of fitness for a quick recovery.

She was back to doing rolling squats 12 weeks after her right knee was replaced.

The couple, both residents of South Surrey,  say their experience proves that older people needn’t fear strenuous exercise.

A recent study by researchers at Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC determined strenuous exercise is good for a senior’s brain.

They followed 86 elderly women with probable mild cognitive impairment. Half trained twice a week using weights or other forms of resistance exercise, while half practised aerobic training like walking.

After a year, the women who lifted weight showed what the study described as improved attention, memory, problem-solving and decision-making skills. They scored up to 13 per cent higher in tests of their decision-making skills. The aerobic group did not.

Pirie and Young credit four years of workouts devised by personal trainer Kevin Reid with rolling-back the clock by getting them in the best shape they’ve been in years.

Reid likes to keep his clients moving.

“Come on, kids,” he says, waving Pirie toward the heavy bag in a corner of his gym.

Reid, who has developed a couples training system called “Better With Age,” says Pirie and Young are in better shape than most 20- and 30-year-olds.

“The most amazing success stories come from my most senior clients,” says Reid.

“If every local resident over the age of 50 did what Glen and Sharon do, Peace Arch Hospital would be shut down,” Reid says.

As Reid holds the bag and shouts encouragement, Pirie balances on a BOSU ball, a rubber half-ball attached to a rigid platform, and attacks the bag with boxing gloves, pounding it with short chopping punches.

He still isn’t sweating.

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