Though I’m 71-years-old, I’m an active person and I’ve always enjoyed exercise from a young age. 

When we first went into lockdown at the beginning of 2020, and gyms closed down, I felt lost – and needed to do something to keep moving. But I wasn’t sure where to start. 

My husband, Rajinder, 74, has an allotment and, at the point during the pandemic where we weren’t allowed to do much else, we would go there as a family to meet up. 

It was a way of getting some fresh air – and some exercise. 

While at the allotment, Rajinder would use a skipping rope to exercise, and my 41-year-old daughter Minreet would hula hoop. But I couldn’t do either, and I felt deflated and disheartened.

Although not initially able to do it, after some practice, I got the hang of skipping – but I thought that hula hooping was so hard. My daughter made it look so easy but when I did it, the hoop just kept falling down. 

But I became determined to master it. I wanted to get the hang of how to get the rhythm right, and be able to gauge how fast to spin it on my waist. But it was hard.

At my age, I wasn’t used to starting up new hobbies or physical activities. But I didn’t want that to hold me back from learning something that I wanted to do.

If my daughter could do it, so could I. I wanted to beat her, and be able to hula hoop even longer than her. I wanted to prove you could teach an old dog new tricks.

After weeks of practising, I started to get the hang of it. But I could only do a minute of spinning it on my waist.

But I didn’t give up. I would hula hoop for an hour each day – at the gym on my own, or in the yoga studio when it was empty. Before too long, I could manage spinning a hoop for a few minutes. 

We decided to make it our mission to visit as many schools as we could (Picture: Minreet Kaur)

Now, after one year of practice, I can spin for as long as 90 minutes. I can even spin the lighter hoops on my arm and ankles, and skip through the bigger hoop. 

And I’m now teaching children and other adults how to do it, with the help of my 74-year-old husband.

Our idea to start up hula hooping and skipping workshops came around after reading reports that worldwide obesity rates have tripled since 1975, and that children needed more exercise. 

Skipping and hula hooping are both great ways to lose weight (I have lost a stone!) without it being too intense. It’s also fun and something that can be done with the whole family, rather than it feeling like a hardcore training session. 

And so, we decided to make it our mission to visit as many schools as we could, to help tackle the childhood obesity rates that we’d read about. 

Earlier this year, my daughter made contact with the schools and then my husband and I were invited to a few of them to do an all-day skipping and hula hoop workshop with primary school children. The aim was to promote exercise in the school and to encourage children to get active.

We visited eight schools in total. Over the course of the day, I would do hula hooping with one group of children, while my husband skipped with another group. We both ran these as 20 minute workshops, seeing as many as 400 children in one day. 

We had really positive feedback, with children finding it enjoyable, and wanting to get their parents and grandparents involved. They said that it has helped them with confidence, and their mental health, which has been really uplifting.

The initiative has been really successful. Teachers have since said that they’d love for us to regularly visit, and that it should be something that is on the national curriculum. We are starting them again now kids are back at school.

One thing we’ve found is that children especially have been surprised to see us doing such energetic demonstrations of skipping and hula hooping – mainly because they couldn’t believe we could do it at our age! 

Anyone who feels they are too old to do something, please do not think like this – if we can do it, so can you (Picture: Minreet Kaur)

However, if anything, our age has been a real benefit because it helps to show children (some as young as four years old) that anything is possible! 

And it’s great for us as well. Carrying out these workshops in schools helps us to feel young and we enjoy doing something so positive. It keeps us going and feels like our way of giving something back.

We feel really humbled and honoured to achieve what we have so far. And next, we hope to set up our own exercise app, as well as a YouTube channel or TikTok. 

In the South Asian community, exercise isn’t made a priority – but we are working on changing this perception. I definitely plan to try and engage the South Asian community in what I’m doing and get the community off the sofa. 

Our plans are to continue doing skipping and hula hoop workshops in schools, community centres, and online. We want to keep doing this for as long as possible. 

Even though I’m 71 now, I couldn’t retire as I’d just get bored. We’re a working-class couple and as the cost of living continues to rise, this helps us to pay for food shopping and it’s a nice way to keep busy and take our minds off everything else that is happening in the world.

I can’t remember the last time we actually had a day off. We are always on the go, but we love it.

We feel blessed that, at this age, we’re able to do this exercise – never mind teach others – and we just want to keep on spreading the love of staying active.

Anyone who feels they are too old to do something, please do not think like this – if we can do it, so can you. 

It’s all in the mind. Visualise what you want to do and make it happen.

As told to Minreet Kaur

Age is Just a Number

Welcome to Age is Just a Number, a series aiming to show that, when it comes to living your life, achieving your dreams, and being who you want to be, the date on your birth certificate means nothing.

Each week, prepare to meet amazing people doing stereotype-defying things, at all stages of life.

If you have a story to share, email [email protected]

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