In the South Asian community that I come from, it’s not common to be into fitness. This is particularly true for women, who spend a lot of time looking after others, with no expectation to look after their own health.
I was therefore always a bit of an outlier, going to the gym near my west London home to swim or lift weights a couple of times a week. I always tried to get my 10,000 steps a day and also worked two days a week in a shop, which kept me off the sofa.
But when the pandemic started last year, I realised that I was still not where I wanted to be. I weighed 55kg, which might not sound like a lot, but on my 4’8” frame it made me overweight. I was worried by the news that overweight and unfit people were more at risk of the virus, and decided that I had to get serious about my health.
Gyms were shut, which made things more difficult, and the shop I worked in closed, which meant that I didn’t have those two days a week on my feet. I considered home video workouts, but many of them involve jumping, which often isn’t good for your joints in midlife.
One day I picked up a hula hoop that had been my daughter’s when she was a child, and tried to keep it off the floor. I found it tricky, but was determined to get better, so I practised every day. After a few weeks, I was getting pretty good, and I could feel my core strengthening and my cardio fitness improving. Even better, it was low impact and very friendly on my joints.
Soon I upgraded from a children’s hoop to one designed for fitness that weighs 1.4kg. This was a real step up, and at first the feeling of the weight hitting my core was uncomfortable. Now my muscles have adapted to it, it feels fine.
I worked up to an hour of it every day, keeping the hoop off the floor for all that time. I listen to religious music while doing it, or watch TV. I started to learn hula hoop tricks, too, like swinging it round my arms or neck. By the time that the gyms were open again, I had lost a stone.
I’ve now added swimming and weight training back into my routine, but I have kept the hour of daily hula hooping.
I’m so passionate about the benefits of hula hooping that I’ve started to run workshops to teach other women from my community. I want to show that it’s easy and fun to get into fitness at any age, and whatever your background.
My workout week
An hour with the hoop every day, both around my middle and practising tricks. I also go to the gym every other day where I either focus on strength or I go swimming. I learnt to ride a bike when I was 70, so I sometimes go out cycling, or jump on the trampoline at a friend’s house.
What I eat in a day
Breakfast: I’ll have porridge made with water, and maybe some fruit. I might have a teaspoon of honey, too, but no sugar – I try to keep it out of my diet as much as I can.
Lunch: I’ll have salad with houmous or tofu, or a veggie burger.
Dinner: We tend to have healthy versions of typical Indian food, like rice with dal, or a chickpea curry.
Snacks: I love crisps, but try to watch my intake of them. I have chocolate a few times a week, but try to make sure it’s dark.
I’m Sikh, so we don’t drink alcohol or eat meat. I have never been a long sleeper: I am in bed by 11pm and up at 5am to say my prayers, which feels like enough for me.
As told to Helen Chandler-Wilde