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  • Northside West

Fighting Fit!

Saturday, 22nd June, 2019 9:00am
Fighting Fit!

Jennifer Sweeney is in great shape.

Fighting Fit!

Jennifer Sweeney is in great shape.

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JENNIFER Sweeney pulls no punches when it comes to talking fitness. The 74-year-old from Howth has been exercising with Siel Bleu Ireland, a not-for-profit organisation promoting fitness among older adults and people with chronic illness, since beating oesophageal cancer in 2016. Her health has never been better.

“I began exercising with Siel Bleu in October 2016 after a summer of chemotherapy which left me exhausted,” she told Northside People.

“I began private classes with a trainer in my home and my trainer quickly caught on to my abilities and would very gently push me to go that little bit further. 

“I can now do 150 squats and I box. For me, the experience has been life-changing.”

Sweeney is one of several ‘champions’ showcasing their fitness transformations in Siel Bleu’s annual celebration promoting the importance of exercise, no matter the age.

Following on from last year’s ‘I Can’ campaign, this year’s theme adds a layer of further encouragement to the masses with the slogan ‘I Can, So Can You!’

The campaign starts on June 24 and runs for one week, highlighting private and group exercise classes held nationwide.

Carla Piera Fitzgerald, Brand Manager in Siel Bleu Ireland, said this year’s campaign - #fitnessforseniors - is about inspiring people of all ages to get active.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO), tells us that physical activity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide,” she said.

“This is a frightening statistic and one that that we must take seriously in Ireland, given that just one third of older Irish adults are active. Our campaign is one of empowerment, that exercise can change lives and our incredible champions are fine examples of this.”

In addition to Sweeney, this year’s campaign features Austin Hynes, 74, from Cabinteely. 

After a diagnosis of Parkinson’s in 2014, Hynes began Siel Bleu classes in Harold’s Cross, that are run in partnership with Parkinson’s Ireland.

Feeling the benefits of exercising almost immediately, Hynes then got his friends involved so another Siel Bleu class could be run in Loughlinstown.

“I am a minor league GAA coach for Foxrock, a local team near Ballyogan, and exercising has allowed me to return to this passion,” he said.

“There is more to Siel Bleu classes than just exercise.

“It’s about community, getting out of the house and meeting people. You gently exercise every muscle in your body and regain the confidence to move again.”

Noel McLoughlin from Tallaght agreed. 

Now 79, McLoughlin, a stroke survivor who has beaten prostate cancer and had a hip replacement, found himself at low point after his battle with illness.

It was a Siel Bleu Stroke Survivors exercise class that proved a turning point.

“The Tallaght Stroke Survivors’ Group were running the class with Siel Bleu and I started attending at a time where my mood was running low,” he said.

“When I first started the class, people struggled to lift their arms and taking a walk was something completely foreign to me. Now I can walk 9km and it is the most natural thing in the world for me to have my daily walk.

“My mood picked up and my state of mind is one of positivity. I cannot emphasise enough how these exercise classes can change your life. If I can, then so can you.”

Siel Bleu’s ethos is for everyone, no matter the age, and it’s particularly relevant where Marymount Care Centre in Lucan is concerned. Siel Bleu run weekly exercise classes for residents with remarkable results.

“Siel Bleu and physiotherapy work together to help residents gain back some of their mobility,” said Conor McNulty, General Manager. 

“Anyone that is not doing physical exercise in nursing homes is missing a trick. 

“We cannot give up on people because they are in their 80s and 90s. 

“We encourage our residents to exercise and it has given residents a pep in their step and an activity programme they can look forward to.”

For more information on Siel Bleu Ireland, go to: www.sielbleu.ie

Austin Hynes Noel McLoughlin

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