Meet Debbie Quinn (61), the grand dame of fitness

She is the 61-year-old fitness queen who is passionate about keeping people of all ages healthy through movement.

uper-fit Belfast grandmother Debbie Quinn has become a champion of the fitness world through her multiple approaches to helping people stay active and mobile.

Originally from Belfast’s Shankill Road and now living in Comber, Debbie has been a professional exercise coach for almost four decades and has no notion of slowing down.

She still packs out gyms 15 times a week for classes as well as multiple one-to-one private fitness sessions.

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Debbie is trained in numerous disciplines

With almost four decades of experience, she is also a popular guest speaker on health at women’s and community groups across Northern Ireland.

She says: “I believe I was given a gift. I love helping people. I have this passion for helping people — be that someone with breathing problems, balance issues or helping them to walk better. That’s what makes my work so special to me.”

Debbie is trained in numerous disciplines and part of the magic of her approach is tailoring her classes to suit the abilities of her clients.

She teaches dancing, Zumba, step aerobics, pilates as well as Yin, Hatha and chair yoga.

She is also a single mum to Bailie (24), Zak (20) and Jodie (34) — who lives in Dubai with her husband Chris and their three kids.

A keen dancer with a real sense of joie de vivre, Debbie organised a surprise flash mob of dancers to celebrate her daughter’s wedding six years ago.

Despite turning 60 last year, she is as committed as ever to her work and encouraging all of us to live a healthier lifestyle.

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Debbie has no plans to slow down

She says: “I dance Salsa every weekend and it makes me so happy; how can you not be happy when dancing the Salsa?

“I can’t dance and worry about what’s happening at home. I believe anything that is good for the mental health is also good for the physical health.”

Debbie ensures her classes are open to everyone including people with disabilities or illness.

She also specialises in gentle aerobics/movement for seniors and armchair-based exercise classes which include balance and strength.

She says: “I love my job as I can see the benefits so clearly, a lot of people arrive at my active health classes for many reasons.

“Some people may need help with balance after a fall or maybe just want to get out and make new friends.

“I have one girl on a Zimmer frame that is quite young and the oldest person I have doing chair aerobics is 90. My oldest yoga client is 84.

“After the class the groups usually go for a cup of tea or some lunch so there is a real buzz and social aspect to it.”

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Debbie takes 15 classes a week

Debbie grew up on the Shankill Road and was overweight as a teenager which led her to seek a job in the then new Shankill Leisure Centre when it opened in 1980.

In her many years as a fitness trainer, she says that breathing exercises can have the biggest impact of all on our health.

“I tell people I help them to remove the rust from their bones. If people only knew how breathing and mindfulness can change their lives, everyone in the world would do it.

“Most of us are not getting enough oxygen to the brain, if you breathe properly, you will live better and have more energy and feel better about yourself.

“Short, shallow breathing creates illness as it doesn’t bring oxygen into the body properly.

“I believe we should all spend at least a few minutes a day breathing slowly into our stomach, lungs and throat. Just practising these long slow inward and outward breaths will make such a difference to your overall health.”

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Debbie takes classes for all ages and abilities in Newtownards in the hope to boost peoples mental health

Debbie is also a strong advocate for good mental health and advises everyone to get up, get out and mix with others for their wellbeing.

And as for ageing, she seems to have that down to a fine art.

She advises: “I think age is a mindset. I also think you need to keep your mind busy.

“I am constantly learning and taking new classes and keeping busy as I feel the more I can learn the more I can teach. Vitality is something I work at every day. I set myself wee goals every day and I meditate for 20 minutes every morning to set my body up for the day.

“I just find the more I give the more I get and I am lucky to be surrounded by nice people every day.

“My biggest tip for ageing well is to exercise to keep the muscles supple and find something you enjoy, there’s so much to choose from. Walking groups, dancing classes, yoga, tai chi, join a leisure centre.

“A healthy mind is just as important. Talk about your worries and your fears, keep moving, have friends who you can go out with, eat healthily, join groups — U3A are a great group for anyone retired, they have so many outings.

“One more very important thing is to be grateful every day for what you have, write it down, say it out loud and be grateful every morning”.

Debbie’s classes are held in Ards Yoga and Wellness centre, St Mary’s Primary in Comber, Blaire Maine Leisure Centre and she also travels to give talks and one-off classes, as well as personal training. You can contact her at Debbie.quinn@hotmail.co.uk

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