Betty Brussel is 99 years old. She has just broken 3 world swimming records

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The flow27:10At 99, swimmer Betty Brussel has just broken 3 world records

Betty Brussel has a lot to celebrate this year. The competitive swimmer has just broken three world pool records – and will turn 100 in July.

But when she enters the water, all those great moments disappear.

“When (I) swim, I count my lanes… you can’t really think about anything else because you lose count,” said Brussel, who lives in New Westminster, British Columbia.

“It’s good to have a medal. But when I have a good time, it’s okay,” she said. The flow during a visit to the Guildford Aquatic Center in Surrey, British Columbia

Brussels broke the world record in the 400-meter freestyle on January 20, competing in the 100-104 age category at a swimming competition in Victoria, British Columbia (according to competition rules, Brussels qualifies for the category because she will be 100 years old this year). . She shaved almost four minutes off the previous record and broke two other records that day, in the 50-meter breaststroke and 50-meter backstroke.

Experts say finding ways to stay active as you age is an important part of staying healthy. But according to the Canadian Community Health Surveyonly 40 per cent of Canadians over the age of 65 met the recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise in 2021, according to the latest available data.

WATCH | Betty Brussel breaks records and makes waves:

99-year-old New Westminster swimmer breaks world records

Betty Brussel is making waves around the world. The 99-year-old from the White Rock Wave Swim Club gained international fame after breaking three world records for her age group at an event in Victoria, British Columbia on January 20.

A report published in November by the health analysis division of Statistics Canada noted that physical activity declines with age, but other factors such as lower income and education also contribute to physical inactivity.

Some researchers have looked at how older bodies respond to exercise. In Ireland, sports scientist Lorcan Daly studied his own grandfather, Richard Morgan, 93, a four-time world indoor rowing champion who didn’t take up the sport until he was 73.

The study suggests that when subjected to challenging exercise, Morgan’s cardiopulmonary and respiratory systems respond in much the same way as a healthy young adult would. THE the results were published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in December.

“The key takeaway, we would say, is that… the body responds and adapts at any age,” said Daly, a senior lecturer in sport and exercise science at Shannon University of Technology.

“Certainly, it’s not too late. Start now, I would say, it’s safe, because the body will react.”

A woman leans over the edge of a swimming pool and talks to an older woman in the water.
Coach Linda Stanley Wilson says Brussels participates in all the social activities organized by the swim club. (Monia Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

Learn to swim in the canals

Brussel was born in the Netherlands, where she learned to swim in the canals around Amsterdam. She moved to Canada and settled in Grand Forks, British Columbia in 1959, where she often swam for leisure while raising her family. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that she first swam competitively, at the age of 68, in what was then called the BC Seniors Games (now the 55+ BC Games) .

“I did a breaststroke lane, and I didn’t even do it right,” she said with a laugh. “I was never taught anything. I just learned it.”

Brussels is now part of a competitive team and swims twice a week. When she’s not in the pool, she tries to go out for walks to stay active.

“I live on a hill. I go up slowly – and when I go down, I go fast,” she laughed. “My kids always say, ‘Mom, don’t go so fast!’

Guidelines published by the World Health Organization recommend “at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week for all adults” and say people ages 65 and older should add exercises that “emphasize balance and coordination, as well as well as muscle strengthening, to help prevent falls and improve health.” “.

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Primrose Paruboczy, 90, and Christine Temple-Fentimin, 94, train weekly with Adam Phomin, founder of CrossFit Closer gym in Kanata.

Find an exercise that suits you

Researcher Mylène Aubertin-Leheudre gives some simple tips for being more active: start with an activity you enjoy, start small and build from there.

“When you feel better and maintain these habits in your lifestyle, you can start doing more specific exercises that will help you improve your physical condition,” said Aubertin-Leheudre, a professor specializing in aging and exercise at the Department of Physics. activity at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

In North Vancouver, Barrie Street, 87, regularly attends his local gym and even runs a website where he offers fitness advice to seniors. He said exercise doesn’t necessarily require running, cycling or even going to the gym.

“You might try yoga, tai chi, social dancing, walking, stretching — somewhere you’ll find an activity with your name engraved on it,” Street said.

“Even while waiting in line at Tim Hortons…I’ll do line-up stretches. Back stretches. Leg stretches. Lunges. Squats. People think I’m weird, but that’s okay,” a- he declared, laughing.

An older man uses exercise equipment in a gym.
In North Vancouver, Barrie Street, 87, is a regular at his local gym. (Anne Penman/CBC)

Aubertin-Leheudre pointed out that exercise can also benefit mental health and open up new social circles.

This was certainly the case for Brussels, the 99-year-old record-breaking swimmer. His coach, Linda Stanley Wilson, said Brussels was a regular at the swim club’s social events and was usually one of the last people to leave.

“As you get older, most of my friends have died or gone to houses…and I like being around people,” Brussels said.

Besides celebrating his 100th birthday, his hopes for 2024 are to simply continue swimming.

“I’m basically a happy person, you know?” she says.


Audio produced by Anne Penman and Ines Colabrese. This story is part of The Current’s new series Well Founded, which explores the wellness industry and how to make sense of all the arguments about how to become better.

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