What Olympic ski-jumper Eddie The Eagle can teach us about exercise on National Fitness Day as he leads a fitness class in Maidstone.

Eddie the Eagle, the former ski jumper who won the hearts of the nation at the 1988 Winter Olympics, has a new career – encouraging pensioners to stay fit.

Eddie, whose real name is Michael Edwards, finished last in the Olympics but his self-funded determination to compete – he was Britain’s only ski-jumper at the time – was an inspiration to many.

Now Inspired Villages hopes his positive attitude will enthuse residents at its retirement villages to stay active.

Eddie joined a fitness class at the company’s Ledian Gardens development in Leeds, near Maidstone, appropriately enough on National Fitness Day.

He got involved after research revealed over half of pensioners have never been to a gym in their life but 37% say they would be more likely to work out in the company of someone their own age.

Eddie the Eagle is inspiring people to stay active as they get older.

Eddie began life as a plasterer, and his Olympic dream was hampered by the fact that he was very far-sighted and needed to wear thick glasses that fogged up at altitude on his ski runs.

Although Eddie finished last in both the Normal Hill and Large Hill events at the Olympics, he still held the British ski jumping record from 13 years until 2001.

He is still sixth by distance on the all-time list of British ski-jumpers.

Eddie was a nickname given him by his school friends, based on his surname.

The eagle epithet came from the closing remarks of the president of the Olympic organizing committee, Frank King who said Eddie had “soared like an eagle.”

Eddie the Eagle leading an exercise class on National Fitness Day
Eddie the Eagle leading an exercise class on National Fitness Day

Eddie failed to qualify for the next Winter Olympics after the rules were made stricter.

His varied career since than has included writing a book called On the Piste, recording a song in Finnish which reached Number 2 in the Finnish charts, winning the first series of the British celebrity diving program Splash! mentored by Tom Daley in 2013, and raising £23,000 for Children in Need by jumping over 10 cars using a ski jump made of scaffolding.

He has also competed in BBC’s Let’s Dance for Sport Relief, appeared on the ITV comedy show Fake Reaction and in 2001, appeared in the UK version of The Masked Dancer, as Rubber Chicken.

He also found time to attend De Montfort University in Leicester where he graduated with a law degree.

Eddie’s can-do spirit in the face of hopeless adversity was brought to the attention of later generations by the 2016 biopic Eddie The Eagle, starring Taron Egerton as Eddie. It was the highest grossing UK film that year.

Eddie said: “I loved that movie about me! I must have seen it 130 times. For a long time it didn’t look as though it was ever going to get made, but suddenly after I appeared on Splash! everything came together. “

Eddie says staying fit helps avoid injury.
Eddie says staying fit helps avoid injury.

Eddie said: “It was very close to the truth, though of course a very condensed version of my life. The only bit they did put in for dramatic effect was where they show my fellow competitors getting me drunk the night before my run. That didn’t happen.”

The 58-year-old joined in an exercise class at Ledian Gardens led by fitness coach Tania Skerritt.

Eddie, who is remarkably slim, said he was delighted to encourage people to stay active. He said: “I’ve always stayed fit.

“My mates from school are now having knee-jobs and hip replacements and I’ve had none of those problems. I still go skiing and ski-jumping occasionally, and being fit ensures that I can do those without injury.”

Eddie lives in Stroud. He is divorced with two daughters, aged 15 and 18.

He said: “Nowadays, my chief passion is dancing. I go dancing for maybe 30 hours a week.”

Eddie in his Eagle stance
Eddie in his Eagle stance

Inspired Villages is also offering fitness memberships to the general public to use their gyms and wellness facilities.

For more information, visit here.

Ledian Gardens is retirement village for the over-65s with accommodation ranging from one-bedroom apartments to three-bedroom cottages built around a clubhouse, with a swimming pool, spa, gym, restaurant and shop.

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