You’re never too old to exercise – senior influencers share on TikTok, Instagram their secrets to ageing well
- There is a well-established link between fitness level and longevity, trainer says, and senior influencers on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are living proof
- The ‘granfluencers’ are great role models for old people who may need motivation, but doctor cautions viewers to take their own fitness into account as well
For years, Singaporeans Ng Bee Kia, 77, Ngai Hin Kwok, 73, and Victor Chan, 70, have made it a point to get together a few times a month to exercise and try new workout routines.
Wanting to inspire other old people to get healthy, they called themselves Team Strong Silvers and began sharing their exercise videos on Facebook in October 2013. Two years later, they started posting content on Instagram (@teamstrongsilvers), and have since gained more than 7,000 followers.
The group also includes overseas members Peng Lin Hua, 82, Ng Siu Chi, 64, and Qian Hong, 62, who exercise with Ng, Ngai and Chan whenever they are in Singapore.
Seventy-one-year-old American Sheila Agnew McCoy is another fitness influencer who is inspiring others on social media via her Instagram account, @sheilasfitfiftyplus.
Based in Atlanta in the US state of Georgia, the grandmother, breast cancer survivor and personal trainer – she got her certification at age 65 – regularly shares exercises that are “fun and enjoyable as opposed to strenuous and repetitive”.
She believes that social media can be a powerful medium for anyone looking to get healthier.
“Many older adults don’t feel comfortable going to the gym, but with social media, they can exercise at home or even take their fitness routines to work or on holiday with them.”
Ravi Bala Sharma, also known as “Dancing Dadi”, started her Instagram account @ravi.bala.sharma soon after the Covid-19 pandemic began. Her hometown of Mumbai, India had just entered lockdown, so her children encouraged her to post classical Indian dance videos online as a way to pass the time.
Two years on, the music lover and former teacher has 195,000 followers all over the world. Her goal with her videos is to show people that they are never too old to take up dance.
“It’s not just the young ones who can move to a fast beat,” says the 64-year-old.
Influencers have long dominated the social media landscape, on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, but in the past few years more senior influencers, also known as “granfluencers” or “Instagrannies”, have built a strong presence.
Digitally savvy and refreshingly authentic, these “cool seniors” aged 60 and older are attracting thousands of fans with their wholesome and engaging content on various subjects, including health and fitness.
Dr Chan Kin Ming, a geriatrician at Chan KM Geriatric & Medical Clinic in Singapore, believes that granfluencers can make a positive difference in their followers’ lives.
There are a few drawbacks, Chan adds.
“Their audience may think, ‘If someone my age can do it, I can, too’ and they may follow the influencers’ exercise routines without considering their own health status. The problem with this is that they may end up hurting themselves or exacerbating whatever medical conditions they have.”
The influencer may experience similar problems. Chan says that the more “likes” they receive from their followers, the more they may feel encouraged to do more – and sometimes, beyond what they can actually do – to get more positive feedback.
They may end up pushing their bodies too far, injuring themselves in the process.
“If you want to follow your favourite influencer’s fitness programme, always tailor it to your abilities,” Chan advises.
“Remember, it might have taken the influencer years of training to reach his or her current level of fitness, whereas you’re only just starting. It’s best to go slow because getting fit takes time. The last thing you want is to injure yourself.”
You are never too old to start improving your health through exercise, and regular physical activity can even help you live longer.
“There’s a well-established correlation between fitness level and longevity. Strength training and regular physical activity can help prevent bone and muscle loss, therefore minimising our risk of crippling fractures in old age,” says Ivan Corsi, founder and director of Athletic Club, a personal training studio in Hong Kong.
“However, before following any exercise routine, even one that you’ve seen on social media, it’s important to know your body well,” says Chan. “Your first step should be to schedule a check-up with your doctor, who may then order a blood test, chest X-ray or other tests if you haven’t had one in the last two years.”
Once your doctor has examined you, discuss your intention to start exercising regularly. Even if you get the doctor’s go-ahead, always listen to your body. So, for instance, if you experience chest pain while walking briskly, stop and consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Corsi says that a qualified and experienced personal trainer can design a programme for your fitness level and needs. If you are looking to improve your fitness, a trainer can help you get good results.
While they are touched when their followers tell them that they wish their parents or grandparents could be like them, the men of Team Strong Silvers admit that their workouts involve a lot of “trial and error” and say that they just want their followers to “be healthy and safe”.
“I want people to see my posts as helping them create positive lifestyle changes while still enjoying life. I don’t want them to be me. I want them to be the best they can be. I hope to inspire them to look after themselves, to lose excess weight, cultivate a healthy mind and look forward to better doctor reports.”