'I hate feeling unable to fend for myself'

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The Independent Online

Stanley Meeks, 69, from Plumstead, south-east London, has a clean bill of health and he works out twice a week at the Waterfront Leisure Centre, in Greenwich, to keep it that way.

"I've always been interested in keeping fit and I thought as I get older it might be an idea to stay out of the local hospital. I hate the feeling of being alone and decrepit and unable to fend for myself," said the retired tourist officer after a cardiovascular session yesterday.

"Some of the load-bearing exercises like the weights help a lot. So many of my friends go down with knee and hip problems." Not one of them goes to the gym. "I suppose a heart attack of some kind is the biggest worry. Every now and again I try and persuade my doctor to take my blood pressure but he doesn't seem to be keen. He's probably worried about what he would find.

"I have the occasional pint of beer, glass of wine, and gin and tonic - but I try not to mix them together. I am what you would call a very moderate drinker and I don't smoke. Since retirement I've done all the normal things like cut down to semi-skimmed milk."

Mohamed Hussein, 30, also from Plumstead, yesterday made his debut in the keep fit world. A television programme on heart disease prompted him to sign up for an induction session at the Waterfront centre.

"The main reason I am here is to get rid of all the unnecessary fat. The media has shown the sorts of problems you face in the future if you don't exercise." As a play leader in a council-run leisure centre, Mr Hussein wants to set a good example. "It's better for me to be fit so at least I can tell the children I work with that they should be fit."