6 Sep 2020

The septuagenarian women who love to pump iron

From Sunday Morning, 9:45 am on 6 September 2020

Australian fitness trainer Dean Mawby didn't set out to specialise in working with older bodies, but somehow the age of clients has risen over the years – 70 percent are now over 60.

It's never too late to get stronger, which can be invaluable for adding years to your independence, he tells Jim Mora.

Kaye Payne lifting

Kaye Payne lifting Photo: Nicole Cleary

Fitness coach Dean Mawby

Fitness coach Dean Mawby Photo: YouTube screenshot / Raising the Bar

Mawby's gym Real Strength is in the small Victorian city of Castlemaine, about an hour out of Melbourne.

Kaye Payne started lifting weights there earlier this year to build herself up after breaking her leg.

Before training at Real Strength, Kaye thought she'd probably soon have to move on from the olive grove where she's lived on her own for six years.

Now she can deadlift — pick up from the floor — 50 kilograms and feels confident to stay on her property indefinitely.

"As you get older you value your independence. If doing something like this keeps you in your own home… at this stage, every year counts. It really is — I would say without exaggeration — life-changing."

One of Kaye's coaches is Therese Pollard — a 71-year-old champion weight lifter who can deadlift 117.5 kilos and lift 193 kilos from a full squat.

Champion power lifter Therese Pollard

Champion power lifter Therese Pollard Photo: YouTube screenshot / Raising the Bar

Dean says he doesn't quite know how he came to be surrounded by all these amazing people, but finds working with them extremely rewarding.

"The gold of working with someone in their 60s and 70s and 80s, when you improve and get more strength in your movements, that translates into a significant change in life.

"The research is very clear. Two sessions a week — 45 minutes to an hour when you're over 65, 70 — that is the most important exercise that you can do. Look for a place where you feel well looked after and feel secure and connected with the trainer."

The Real Strength gym is the subject of research recently published in the US's Journal of Women and Ageing.