Alexandra grannies trade knitting needles for boxing gloves

They attend boxing classes once a week as part of a project called GOGOBox

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Cine Mosekwa, 75, doing punching drills with boxing instructor Mbulelo “Slow Poison” Transvaal at the gym in Sandton, Johannesburg. Photo: Masego Mafata

Grannies from Alexandra township in Johannesburg are trading their knitting needles for boxing gloves. This is the latest project by the goGOGOgo project with the Slow Poison Boxing Gym to challenge the sedentary lifestyles often associated with ageing.

Once a week, about a dozen elderly people attend boxing classes as part of the GOGOBox project run by Mbulelo Transvaal, the owner of the boxing gym, and his colleague Lubabalo Mooi.

“I really enjoy the class because we get to use boxing gloves and punching bags. I try to exercise at home but I don’t have equipment,” says 75-year-old Cine Mosekwa.

Mosekwa, who lives with her two grandchildren aged two and three, says keeping fit is important to help her keep up with the toddlers. “If I just sit at home and do nothing, I’ll age quickly and become stiff,” she says.

Maria Snookie Motlabe, 68, says exercising helps improve mobility in her knees. “I’ve had knee problems for years since I had an operation on my one knee in 2008. I was due for another operation on my other knee, but since exercising, the pains have decreased,” she says.

According to the World Health Organisation, a lack of physical activity is among the top five risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. This risk is higher among older persons.

Over 100 grannies have signed up for the classes, with a dozen attending each week on a rotational basis.

Professor Lisa Micklesfield, a researcher at Wits University’s Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit, said it was important for older people to be physically active to reduce the risk of getting chronic illnesses.

“The loss of muscle strength, as well as muscle mass and bone mass, also occur if an ageing adult is not active. This could lead to decreased mobility and an increased risk of falls and fractures,” said Micklesfield.

While there are existing programs such as community-based exercise classes and walking groups for older people, accessing these can be hindered by distance and financial constraints.

Boxing instructor Transvaal said exercise is an effective stress reliever and “it enhances blood flow, which is important for everyone, especially the elderly”.

goGOGOgo founder Jane Simmonds said more than 100 older people have since signed up for the classes. “We have had to create a roster, so the gogos attend on a rotational basis. We are hoping to secure funding so we can offer the classes more than once a week,” she said.

TOPICS:  Health Older people

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