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How TAFE NSW helped 74-year-old John inspire seniors to get active

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga

How TAFE NSW helped 74-year-old John inspire seniors to get active

FIGHTING FIT: Wagga 74-year-old John Cook with TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga fitness teacher Helen Fisher.

25 January, 2021

TAFE NSW has helped a 74-year-old Wagga man with a passion for inspiring seniors to “get active” to launch an unlikely new career – as a gym instructor.

Former shearer, bartender and Kooringal service station owner John Cook had been retired for more than five years when in his role working with volunteers at Calvary Hospital, he became increasingly concerned about the lack of understanding when it came to fitness for seniors.

The grandfather of three made a snap decision to enrol in a Certificate III in Fitness at TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga and work towards becoming a seniors’ gym instructor.

After graduating last December, Mr Cook has now secured a role as an instructor of a seniors’ gym class at Oasis.

“I kept hearing the same thing from older people: I don’t want to join a gym because I don’t want to be yelled at by someone younger than my grandkids who I can’t relate to,” Mr Cook said. “It’s the simple things like when a younger gym instructor tells an older person to jump up off the floor, they don’t realise it can take us a bit of time to get up. The idea to do a TAFE NSW course popped into my head and I’m so glad I did.”

According to a report by the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre, 62 per cent of Australian seniors do not do enough physical activity to obtain health benefits.

Mr Cook said his classes had been well supported and suggested some older people needed to shift their thinking, as well as their bodies.

“Some people think when you retire you stop but when you retire your life is actually starting over,” he said.

“That’s when you want to enjoy life to the fullest and to stay fit and healthy allows you to do all the things you want to do.”

He said TAFE NSW had armed him with the real practical skills and experience to make a flying start in his new career.

“It was such a great experience and the camaraderie between the class was incredible,” he said. “I learned so much about the different muscle groups, how the heart functions and how the whole system interacts.

“The teacher was fantastic and the course was a great mix of face-to-face learning, online learning and gym sessions.”

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga Fitness Teacher Helen Fisher said the Certificate III in Fitness was being offered in semester one this year and was a pathway to a rewarding career.

“The gym industry in Australia is worth $3 billion and is projected to grow by close to 20 per cent in the next five years,” Ms Fisher said.

“There are so many new gyms opening in Wagga and with that comes a need for more personal trainers and gym instructors. It’s an amazing industry to be a part of. There aren’t many industries where you can literally transform a person’s life and say ‘I had a hand in that’.”

To find out more about studying fitness at TAFE NSW, phone 13 16 01 or visit

Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.