Last month, we launched new online exercise groups with Dragons Rugby, funded by the Welsh Government. One participant, Maggie, who's in her 70s, explains why the groups couldn't have come at a better time.

“Having worked up to 73, I retired in November 2019 and was really looking forward to a spring and summer of freedom, but then Covid came along… 

During the lockdown, I’ve kept myself busy with online art classes, jigsaw puzzles and reading. I bought an exercise bike to help with my mobility and fitness, and I also joined an online French course.

But, despite the great support of my two lovely daughters and their families, this winter lockdown has undoubtedly been the hardest. 

The dark winter evenings, the weather, spending Christmas without your family… It all takes its toll on your emotional resources. The Re-engage exercise groups really couldn’t have come at a better time.

Initially I enrolled in the chair yoga and Tai Chi groups, but after discussing my needs with one of the Re-engage project managers, I decided to join the general fitness group too, which is run by a coach with the Dragons Rugby team.

I was a little apprehensive at first and wondered if I’d be able to keep up. I had bilateral knee replacements a couple of years ago and while the right knee has been very successful, the left knee is a constant source of pain and I use a walking aid to walk any distances. I’ll probably need more surgery once the Covid demand on the NHS eases.

I needn’t have worried, though. After the first lesson for each of the classes I felt completely at ease. Although each class is distinct, the trainers are so professional, friendly and encouraging. They’re constantly reminding us to go at our own pace. 

There’s a real range of people who attend the groups and a great mix of chatting and exercise. The standard of teaching is excellent and the fact that the groups are funded by the Wales Assembly Government makes it accessible for everyone.

I must admit, I hadn’t really expected this quality of training. I also hadn’t thought the groups would be so much fun.

When Covid restrictions allow, I’m looking forward to meeting up with some of the lovely group trainers and participants, as well as the Reengage staff who’ve been supporting us. I’d also love the opportunity to meet with team members of the Wales Assembly who have made all this possible, so they’re aware of the benefits of the programme.

And I’m looking forward to hugging my family and friends again, of course, as well as getting out and about and catching up on the things I’d planned for my retirement. I can’t wait to go to a French restaurant and being able to order in French!

I’m now thinking about becoming a Re-engage call companion. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from the past year, it’s that I have a lot to appreciate in my life. Some people aren’t so fortunate and it would be nice to help.”

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