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Posted: May 5, 2020, 2:36 p.m. | Updated: May 5, 2020, 2:57 p.m. | 4 Min Read
PICTOU, N.S. — By Dian Day –
Sharon Lynch is a well-known Pictou County personality. Before COVID-19, she kept herself—and many others—active, offering a well-attended chair exercise program in three locations in Pictou County.
Between the three sites, more than 200 people attended in person every week. When the pandemic hit, it became impossible for Lynch to continue with this popular program. Almost immediately, people started missing doing their exercises together, and many were finding it difficult to remember the routines when alone at home.
That’s when Mary MacLellan, of Pictou County Seniors Outreach, started to think about how to keep a good thing going.
“I realized how important it is, particularly at this time when seniors are confined to their houses, that people had someone they were familiar with in their own homes,” said MacLellan. “It’s so important for people’s physical and mental health.”
It wasn’t easy to bring all the necessary elements together: a cameraperson, location, and a plan about how to safely film Lynch doing her routine, all while obeying social distancing rules.
“It was challenging,” said MacLellan. “I probably looked for over two weeks trying to find someone who would do the video and a location to film it in. It seemed like a dead-end street. But I was determined, and in the end it all fell together perfectly.”
“Mary put so much work into getting this video to happen,” said Lynch. “People are finding their mental and physical health is suffering. Staying inside, they aren’t moving like they used to, and are losing muscle tone. The chance of people having breaks or falls is greater. Regular exercise means that there will be less risk that they will end up in the emergency room.”
Videographer Steve Currie was the person MacLellan finally found to do the filming. Currie has been working in media for a couple of years now in northern Nova Scotia and particularly enjoys helping promote inspiring stories.
“It’s great that seniors can continue to have that sense of community with their instructor while isolating,” said Currie.
This time, due to COVID-19, the project had extra challenges.
“We needed to ensure the social distancing was respected and we took all precautions,” explained Currie. “It was hard for me to communicate with Sharon with a mask on but this was important.”
“I really believe in the importance of exercise, especially for seniors,” said Lynch. “It’s going to enrich their lives.”
Lynch herself leads a very active life, and not only by running the popular exercise class; as a member of the Scotsburn 55+ Club, she also hikes, bikes, snowshoes, kayaks, and in the winter she does yoga and takes spin classes. Her chair exercise routine was originally developed for residents of Shiretown Nursing Home in Pictou, where she worked as recreation co-ordinator for 22 years before her retirement 10 years ago.
“This workout has been approved by several physiotherapists,” Lynch points out. “A lot of people think, chair exercises, there’s nothing to that. No! It’s a total body work out.”
The resulting video is a 50-minute workout that is aimed at seniors, but beneficial for people of any age. The important thing is for each person to only do as much as is comfortable for them, and to build strength and capacity slowly. It’s OK to rest in between exercises if that feels right.
“You do what you’re comfortable doing,” said Lynch. “If you’re just starting out, just do the sitting part, maybe leave a day in between. You don’t have to the whole thing at one time. A lot of people try to rush. You won’t get the full benefit if you do it quickly. This is your class! If you continue doing it regularly, you’ll find that you are able to increase gradually. You’re building up muscle, you’re strengthening your arms and legs. It’s a total body workout.”
As it turns out, Currie and Lynch had met previously, about five years ago, when Lynch took a yoga class that Currie was teaching in New Glasgow.
“It was a very hard class and she ran with it. She is a huge inspiration for me,” said Currie. “I greatly admire Sharon’s leadership in this area.”
MacLellan’s motives in making this video happen weren’t totally altruistic, either.
“I wanted to keep myself going too,” admits MacLellan. “You feel good about yourself when you get it done. It’s ‘me time.’ If the phone rings when I’m doing my exercises, I don’t answer it.”
“Exercise is moving mediation for the mind,” he said.
Clearly, many people are enjoying access to Lynch’s at-home exercise routine; the video was viewed more than 2,000 times in its first two weeks.
Funding for the video was provided by the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors – Senior Safety Program and Nova Scotia Community Links.
Dian Day is the regional co-ordinator with Nova Scotia Community Links.