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Exercise through my life; Mei-Ju, 73, Taipei City, Taiwan
Mei-Ju practising yoga

April 2024 – Interview by Lynn Li

Theme: Exercise

Exercise through my life.
Mei-Ju, 73, Taipei City, Taiwan

At 45, Mei-Ju found herself caught up in the busyness of life, leaving little space for exercise. However, a neighbour’s gentle suggestion to try yoga not only alleviated her migraines but also opened doors to a newfound appreciation for physical activity. Now, at 73, she shares her love for yoga by teaching it others, has discovered a passion for hiking, and cycling brings her a profound sense of achievement, highlighting the rich rewards that come with embracing an active lifestyle. Mei-Ju’s story shows that it is never too late to start and find joy in being active.

TCL. What exercise do you do now? How does it make you feel? Has it changed as you have got older?  

Mei-Ju.  I married young and had 3 children. As well as being a full-time mother I also had to help with my husband’s business. I was very busy and there was simply no time to exercise. I had been suffering with long term migraines for years and I was taking medication that didn’t help. I had many brain scans, but no one could find the source of the problem. My neighbor suggested that I try yoga. At 45 I began practicing yoga. Initially, it was just once a week, but I quickly found myself attending classes three times a week. With each session, I noticed a significant improvement in my body pain and headaches and a more positive outlook on life. Clearly seeing the benefits, I made the decision to include yoga in my daily routine. 

I was fortunate to connect with a skilled yoga teacher who not only guided me but also encouraged me to take on a more active role. She invited me to assist in opening the classroom every day which deepened my commitment to yoga. As the years passed, I went deeper into the practice and eventually at 50 I became a certified yoga teacher. It’s been a fulfilling journey, and I’m grateful for the positive impact yoga has had on my life and those around me. 

As I got older, I found myself wanting to explore new forms of exercise. One day, when I was about 65, while looking through my nephew’s Facebook pages I came across breathtaking photos of his hiking adventures. Inspired, I reached out to him for suggestions on beginner-friendly mountains to explore. I also joined my friends who were eager to introduce me to trail walking and hiking, gradually progressing to conquer taller peaks. 

When I was approaching my 70s, I felt a desire to try cycling again. The sight of my son’s cycling adventures in China reignited my interest. Coincidentally, shortly after deciding to take up cycling again, I unexpectedly won a lottery, giving me a brand-new bicycle. Deciding to share the joy, I purchased a second-hand bicycle for my husband, and together, we embarked on cycling journeys. 

In 2020, I achieved a significant milestone by completing a 920km bicycle journey around Taiwan which took over eight days. The experience was exhilarating. Encouraged by the success of my first tour, I took on another around-the-island adventure in 2023. This time, the organisers incorporated a blend of biking, train, and bus rides, allowing us to explore more cities and diverse terrains. The journey was unforgettable, and with each passing day, I felt less apprehensive, eventually feeling a sense of pride in accomplishing the tour once again. 

Reflecting on these experiences, I am grateful for the opportunities to embrace new challenges, discover the beauty of nature, and create lasting memories by being fit and healthy. 

Mei-Ju on a bicycle

TCL. What makes it tough to exercise regularly, even when you know it’s good for you?  

Mei-Ju. I think that the idea of exercise being tough stems from our leaning towards laziness. It’s common for people, me included, to make excuses like “I’ll start exercising tomorrow or next week.” When I began practicing yoga, I came across so many challenges – pain in my body, constant distractions, and so many competing priorities. However, I soon realised that consistent daily practice leads to improvement, while inconsistency makes it harder to make progress. 

When I teach split poses for yoga, my students always say, “it’s not possible!”  However, I know from my experience, if you practice every day, everyone can do the splits like professional yoga teachers. After practicing yoga for around 5 years, exercise has become my routine. I know from my experience that the earlier you start to have an exercise routine; the more exercise habits will be built in your life.  

Everybody will get old. As we grow older, we should build up our muscle strength so our body does not deteriorate quickly. By strengthening muscles, we create a foundation that supports our bodies like a sturdy staircase, slowing down the ageing process. 

"It is great to have a goal to reach and it is a great motivation for me to complete it and receive the city medal."

TCL. What could your government, local community or where you live do to help you exercise more?  

Mei-Ju I want to share a recent favourite city activity of mine, which shows the efforts of Taipei City to promote cycling among its citizens. They launched an initiative featuring a mobile app that allows users to track their progress as they ride along the designated 66km riverside route encircling the city. The incentive? The first 600 cyclists to complete the route within a month receive a prestigious cycling medal. 

This local government cycling “medal” encouraged me to ride my bicycle around the route. I managed to meet the target in the first 10 days, and I received a medal!! It was beautiful to ride beside the riverside in the city. It is great to have a goal to reach and it is a great motivation for me to complete it and receive the city medal. 

Taiwan’s local community also have sports centres. My husband prefers to go to the sport community centre to do gym and exercise with friends. If you are over 65 years old, you can use it with subsidised entrance fee and a very low price lunch.  For my husband, it’s not only about staying healthy but also about the savings he makes by having lunch at the sports center, making it a win-win situation for all involved. 

Mei-Ju looking joyful up a mountain

TCL. How do you know what’s good advice for staying healthy? Who do you trust?  

Mei-Ju. I believe in the power of my personal experiences to guide me. I have seen how my body has changed over time. At 5 feet tall, I weighed 60kg when I was 45 years old but now, at 70, I weigh 43kg. I can feel that my muscle strength is different from before.  I have fallen over from riding my bike a few times, but I believe that my muscle protected me and allowed my body to recover more quickly and prevent me from long term injury.   

 My own experience serves as the most reliable indicator of what keeps me healthy. While I occasionally seek input from friends  I view their advice merely as reference points. Ultimately, it is through my own firsthand experiences that I get a deep understanding of what works best for my health and well-being.  


Mei-Ju top of a mountain

TCL. Do gadgets like phones or watches help you exercise, or do they make it harder?  

 Mei-Ju. While they can provide useful reference points and insights into what others are doing, I personally don’t find them necessary. Instead, I prefer to observe and learn from the activities of those around me. 

Since turning 50, I’ve been fortunate to have a strong drive to do exercise . Now, at 73, I take pride in my ability to maintain my body’s condition through regular stretching and mindful movement. This journey has opened doors to new activities and opportunities for exploration in my life.