FIT FOR LIFE: Sheila Hall teaches two exercises classes a week at 95 years old and last year her DVD, The Sheila Story, had a limited release. She is also involved with Probus, Legacy and enjoys line dancing.
FIT FOR LIFE: Sheila Hall teaches two exercises classes a week at 95 years old and last year her DVD, The Sheila Story, had a limited release. She is also involved with Probus, Legacy and enjoys line dancing. KEVIN RODROM-ROBERTSON

Working out with no ordinary Sheila

AT 94 Sheila Hall last year became the star of her own professionally filmed exercise DVD, The Sheila Story.

Speaking to Seniors newspaper this month, Sheila said it was just as well because only weeks after it was launched, she fractured her humerus, not to mention a couple of ribs, and spent six weeks in hospital.

The DVD meant the twice-weekly classes she has run for decades at Kincumber's Brentwood Village retirement community could go on without her.

And while she said it would take a "freight train" to stop her exercising, even now Sheila runs the DVD behind her because she still can't raise her arm high enough to do her complete 45-minute exercise program.

But she admitted she hadn't always embraced the idea of fame however small.

"It's against my religion really to want to show myself off," she laughed.

"But I decided, I can't live forever, so this way the exercises could continue to help people and maybe help other people outside the village."

Her goal from the start, she said, had always been to help others see the benefits of exercise and maximise their health and fitness potential - and frankly, if I sound as good as Sheila when I'm 95, I'll be happy.

It was fellow resident Patricia Cooke, 23 years Sheila's junior and with a sports training background who, having taken the classes herself, identified the suitability of Sheila's workout for all ages.

She suggested a Central Coast Council grant might make a DVD possible and spread Sheila's inspiration to others.

That is exactly what happened, with Patricia becoming the project's executive director and 1000 free DVDs made and distributed to individuals, seniors centres, clubs, libraries, nursing homes and other venues around the Coast.

"Sheila exercises and stretches your entire body from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet," Patricia said, adding that despite the age gap, she believes Sheila still did the exercises better than she does.

"She really keeps me motivated."

Always active, Sheila explained, she had discovered yoga after a freak injury to her back in her early 40s and had trained as an instructor.

When she moved to Brentwood Village with her husband in 1986, it wasn't long before she started a class there.

When the village pool opened, management approached her about adding an aqua aerobics class.

She knew nothing about it, but set out to learn, and before long had put together her own program for the pool, which she taught for 17 years until a knee reconstruction put a stop to it.

Having decided in 2006 that the term 'yoga' was negatively influencing people who didn't feel they could do yoga-esque contortions, and didn't properly reflect Sheila's uniquely crafted program, class members decided Bend and Stretch was a better title, and so it was christened.

While Sheila admits last year's fall "knocked the blazes out of me", she's also one determined lady, does her own house and garden work and says she "couldn't live without exercise".

As for others calling her an inspiration, well "maybe", she allows, but "if a 95-year-old can do these exercises with a bad back, after breaking a hip and a knee replacement, 60-80 year-olds definitely ought to be able to do them".

To find out more about The Sheila Story DVD, contact Patricia on 0431 791 946.


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