Levin woman swims an extra length on every birthday

Levin woman Heather Robinson swims 88 lengths to celebrate her birthday.
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Levin woman Heather Robinson swims 88 lengths to celebrate her birthday.

While many people her age are slowing down, an 88-year-old Levin woman plans to swim more and more with each passing year.

As autumn deepens, Heather Robinson waves goodbye to the previous year and plunges into the water to do one extra lap as she matches her age to lengths of the pool.

She turned 88 on April 29 and immediately ticked off 88 lengths – a total of 2.2 kilometres. Ninety minutes later, Robinson was still in high spirits.

Heather Robinson in action.
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Heather Robinson in action.

"I'm lucky I've still got my health, so I just keeping doing it."

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Robinson started swimming her way through her birthdays at 60 and said she would not stop until she physically couldn't do it.

"The day will come when I can't, but as long as I can, I will."

She is no stranger to the Levin Aquatic Centre, where she swims 60 lengths a day, three times a week.

Robinson also cycles 25km every Sunday, but has given up on running marathons after having completed three, on top of more than 50 half marathons.

Fitness is important to Robinson, whose advice to other elderly people is to get outside, breath fresh air and keep on moving.

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"It doesn't hurt to just get out in the morning and even just go around the block."

Reshape New Zealand owner Donovan Daniels said as people aged they could lose muscle and strength.

"It's important to combat that."

Resistance training and cardiovascular exercise could help with sarcopenia – age-related muscle waste.

It was difficult to say how much exercise a person should be doing, as everyone had different abilities, but even five minutes a day could help, Daniels said.

People could then build up to the recommended period of 30 minutes of exercise every three to five days, he said.

"Even if you have a small capability to exercise, the benefits are there."

Robinson's efforts at the pool were above average for her age, Daniels said.

Swimming is a cardiovascular exercise that can help combat muscle waste.

The Levin Aquatic Centre, where Robinson swims, also has a hydrotherapy pool, used for aqua rehab and helps people getting back into fitness.

Aquatics manager James Richmond said aqua rehab classes helped people suffering from joint pain or who wanted to get moving again after an operation or illness.

"The aim of the class is to rebuild strength, flexibility and joint range of motion safely, under the guidance of a qualified instructor.

"Once attendees have built up sufficient fitness, our aim is to transition them into one of the other water or land-based fitness programmes on offer, so their progression can continue."

The hydrotherapy pool was built in September 2016 as part of a $1.68 million redevelopment by the Horowhenua District Council.

 - Stuff

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