Work up a sweat and postpone the ageing process!

It was comedian Groucho Marx who said: "Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough". But what Groucho didn't say but most doctors stress is that exercise is important if we want to live long enough and to have quality of life. In Slovakia, more and more women are finding that a good work-out in the gym can make them look and feel younger. Katarina Richterova put on her leotards and went to join them:

The fitness boom reached Slovakia 10-15 years ago. Staying fit and trim are the most common reasons why women come to sweat it out at classes like this one. And today it is not only young women that work out, says Zora Czoborova, a famous Slovak keep-fit icon:

"From the beginning when fitness came to Slovakia, only young women took care of themselves. But we have reached a time now when middle aged women between 30 and 50 years have come to understand that without movement and doing something for their body and also for their mind, it will not work. Whether young or old, when you work out you feel happier, healthier, you will have more energy, and you won't be so stressed."

I asked a few women over the age of 45 what makes them work out:

"This is how I relax. It gives me certain rewards, I feel healthier, and get the feeling that I have done something for myself."

Through the exercise, do you feel that you are postponing the aging process and that you are younger?

"You must feel young. If you don't feel young, you can exercise as much as you want, but it won't help you. But of course it might support the idea that I don't feel so old [laughs]."

20 years ago there were not as many women in their 50s looking as good and young as there are today. Certainly they have taken inspiration from the TV, where everybody has to look good, but also:

"Nowadays there is a trend for people to want to stay young as long as possible. And in society in general there is a cult of beauty, attractiveness."

... says psychologist Barbora Mesarosova from the Commenius University. Specialists agree on the fact that today's older people are in many ways different from earlier generations.

"Older people nowadays cannot enjoy retirement as it was before. Since the Velvet Revolution life has been faster and people live in more difficult conditions."

As they get older people often want to devote more time to activities that they never previously had time for: travelling, hobbies and also keeping fit:

Photo: Lenka Žižková
"In comparison to western countries I think that our people are more conservative and they don't live as actively as people in western countries, mainly when it comes to travelling, and their activities and interests."

...adds psychologist Mesarosova. A longer working life is another feature of today's society. Recently the retirement age of men and women went up. A woman with two children now retires at 62. Not long ago her retirement age would have been 55years. Although specialists say prolonging our active life is good, surveys show that women would rather not stay at work longer. Sociologist Zora Butorova from the Institute for Public Affairs looks for reasons to explain this:

"This group of women belongs to the so called sandwich generation. This means that there are expectations of these women from the older members of the family. But also they are expected to become very active grandmothers. So this means that those women stay very active, but the field of their activity shifts to their private life."

Butorova says it is mainly educated women, professionals in their field, who try to prolong their working life. Regardless of whether you are at home or at work, an active lifestyle is very important if you are to enjoy your old age.

"We can expect that we will have more and more retired women who will be active in the civic sector in their communities, who will try to do things they were not able to do when they were working. We will have for instance more and more women who will study at universities of the third age. So this age group will become much more diverse than it was some 30 years ago."

In Slovakia the topic of aging is neglected more than in many other countries. But this is bound to change and society will be much more sensitive to the issue, says sociologist Butorova. Also ageism, or discrimination at work because of age, should soon diminish and especially young managers will realize the advantages of having an age-diversified working group.

And maybe we shall see the number of more mature women working out continue to increase. After all, looking good is important at any age, and that goes especially for Slovak women, who are said to be among the most beautiful in the world.