Sixty-eight burpees for 68 years: Fellowship, exercise and enjoying nature ‘feed our souls’, say Atlantic Canadian elders

Anna Enman has one goal in mind for her next birthday: doing non-stop burpees.

She’s an elderly person, so it’ll be quite a bit in a row.

“For my 68th birthday in November, I’m doing 68 non-stop burpees. I’m in the process of building my capacity right now,” says the wife from Harmony, PEI.

Enman has always been active, although not always involved in formal classes.

“My daily activities include snow removal in the winter, cutting firewood in my woodlot, mowing grass, gardening, walking on the beach and maintaining my house and cabin,” says- she.

To stay in shape, she participates in both CrossFit and walks (or does another activity) three times a week in addition to daily yoga practice.

“I’ve worked with weights for about 15 years, but joined CrossFit about four years ago, where classes are closely monitored and training is graded based on your daily abilities,” she explains.

She says she loves the variety of different workouts every day.

“Daily yoga for about 15 years helps my flexibility, CrossFit my strength and endurance, and my outdoor activities are for my soul,” she explains.

On Fridays in the summer, the Scotsburn 55+ go kayaking in groups.  Sandra Malenfant says this image is “a group of us near Monroe Island.  We paddled to greet the ferry as it arrived in Caribou NS from Wood Island, PEI.
On Fridays in the summer, the Scotsburn 55+ go kayaking in groups. Sandra Malenfant says this image is “a group of us near Monroe Island. We paddled to greet the ferry as it arrived in Caribou NS from Wood Island, PEI. – Contributed

Work together

Enman is part of a new breed of elders, who choose to stay active. She trains regularly at CrossFit Summerside with her friend Paula Arsenault from Abrams Village, PEI

Arsenault says she’s been training at CrossFit Summerside three times a week for almost four years now. She also enjoys brisk walking and sometimes cycling.

“I would say I’ve been an active person over the years, but I became less active in the years before CrossFit because I was traveling almost three hours a day to work in Charlottetown,” she says.

“I remember doubting that I would still be able to exercise much after this period of inactivity.”


“On my 64th birthday, I did 100 CrossFit burpees (from flat on the floor to full standing for each). On my 65th, I biked a local 30+ kilometer circuit. haven’t decided what to do for my 66th yet.”

-Paula Arsenault


Nearing retirement, Arsenault scouted gyms in her area and signed up for CrossFit Summerside the month she turned 62.

Since then, she feels she has become much stronger and fitter.

“I enjoy the variety of our workouts there and the help of the coaches who demonstrate every class and help me scale moves that are beyond my ability,” she says. “They correct my movements if necessary to reduce my risk of injury.”

Like her friend Anna Enman, Arsenault has also started setting birthday goals.

“On my 64th birthday, I did 100 CrossFit burpees (from flat on the floor to full standing for each). On my 65th, I biked a local 30+ kilometer circuit. I haven’t decided what to do on my 66th yet,” she laughs.

It taught her a lot, she adds.

“Achieving these goals showed me how much my fitness and strength have improved with regular exercise,” she adds.

“I didn’t know anything about CrossFit until I showed up for a free class, but I think some people think it’s mainly for super fit young people. It’s not. We’re all ages, everyone working at its level.

The Scotsburn 55+ group standing outside the gates of one of Holland's royal palaces during a cycle and barge tour of the Netherlands.  - Contributed
The Scotsburn 55+ group standing outside the gates of one of Holland’s royal palaces during a cycle and barge tour of the Netherlands. – Contributed

“It’s quite pleasant”

Betty Gibson of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia has always felt the need to be active.

“I go to a gym (360 Fit) three times a week. I still work full time so I go Monday, Wednesday and Friday after work. It’s a boot camp style class using body weight and actual weights,” she says. “It’s quite pleasant and the coaches are at the top.

Gibson started 360 Fit in 2020, just as the pandemic hit, so at first it was a lot of online classes. She turned 60 that year.

Prior to 360 Fit, she spent three years at Third Degree, another boot camp-style gym where she said it was all about body weight.

“I started in the third degree in 2017, a few months after my boyfriend’s marriage proposal. I turned 57 that summer. I had been off any type of exercise for two years when I started dating again and that I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my new boyfriend,” she said, adding that she has since married her husband.

Before meeting her husband, Gibson studied at Shotokan Karate for 10 years, from 2004 to 2014, where she earned her black belt.

“Before that, I was always aware of my weight, but I couldn’t afford gyms,” she explains.

So she spent time walking in the evening after her family was fed and settled.

“Growing up, it was all about body image, but I could never get that perfect flat stomach and hourglass figure, so I struggled, gave up, tried again,” she says.

“I mainly stayed active to keep up with my two children, to be able to run and play with them. I remember sledding with my eldest (he was five) when I was seven months pregnant with my second.

As she got older, she realizes it’s not about body image, it’s about the need to be physically and mentally healthy, so she focused on trying to feel healthy at home. instead of toning up for that perfect body.

Sandra Malenfant says one of the group's favorite places to hike and snowshoe is Fitzpatrick Mountain, starting in Scotsburn or Millsville.  “There are many different trails that offer a variety of views.  The mountain is truly a treasure trove for nature lovers in Pictou County.  - Contributed
Sandra Malenfant says one of the group’s favorite places to hike and snowshoe is Fitzpatrick Mountain, starting in Scotsburn or Millsville. “There are many different trails that offer a variety of views. The mountain is truly a treasure trove for nature lovers in Pictou County. – Contributed

“It feeds our soul”

The Scotsburn 55+ Club in Pictou County, Nova Scotia was established in 2007 and club member Joan Clark says it is an active group, with 40 members aged 55-82 .

What member Sue Arsenault loves about the group is that “we each choose what we like to do to stay fit and active and our membership dues help support the Scotsburn Recreation Association”.

Clark adds that it’s a great group of people, all of whom like to be active. It’s hard to choose your favorite activity, she adds.

“When I’m cycling, that’s my favorite thing to do, and then when I’m kayaking on a nice summer day, there’s nothing better,” she says.

For Clark, the group trip to Holland on a bike and barge tour was unforgettable and one of his favorite things to do.

Group member Sandra Malenfant says her favorite activity was an overnight trip organized every year before COVID and the trip to the Netherlands.

“Our last trip was a bike and barge trip to Holland. We cycled trails and roads during the day and cruised the canals in the evening. Then a few of us went hiking in the Alps in Austria,” she said.

“The camaraderie, exercise and outings to enjoy nature are invaluable to all of us. It feeds our soul.

Brendon Peters of North Rustico, PEI is known as the “PEI Spoon Guy”.  He says people who try playing spoons are always surprised by the amount of physical effort it takes.  - Contributed
Brendon Peters of North Rustico, PEI is known as the “PEI Spoon Guy”. He says people who try playing spoons are always surprised by the amount of physical effort it takes. – Contributed

“Get fit to play”

Brendon Peters of North Rustico, PEI keeps fit in a very unique way.

Peters’ mother taught him to play spoons when he was 12 and he is now known to locals and visitors alike as “PEI Spoon Guy”.

“I’ve been in the music business for over 45 years in Prince Edward Island. I started around the age of 12 and I never stopped,” says Peters, who can be followed on Instagram @brendonepeters.

In the spring, summer and fall he does a lot of musical shows, playing two hours in the afternoon, five days a week. In the evenings he is very active during the summer months, playing at least four evenings a week.

You can find Peters at Sea Walk Park in North Rustico on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesday afternoons, and at North Rustico Harbor on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday afternoons, showing people how to make music with the spoons.

“It keeps me in shape. Besides, I love playing with spoons and meeting people,” he adds.

Peters says teaching people how to play spoons and play spoons takes a lot of energy.

“After they finish, they always say it’s harder than it looks.”

He gives people wooden spoons to start with because they’re a bit lighter.

“The ones I use are homemade and a bit heavier – they’re real spoons straight out of the kitchen drawer. I put a wooden handle on them for a better grip and so they’re not too hard to handle. fingers,” he explains.

“It’s good to be fit to play.”

To stay in shape during the off-season winter, Peters does a lot of walking as well as a few gigs with his music on the spoon.

Did you know?

The Scotsburn 55+ club group offers a variety of activities scheduled most days of the week:

  • Monday and Thursday: Exercise classes including aerobics, training, core strengthening and flexibility exercises.
  • Tuesday: Hike Pictou County trails.
  • Wednesday: Cycling, mostly on the Canada Trail and secondary roads in Pictou County.
  • Friday morning: Kayaking the rivers and lakes around Pictou County (during the summer).

Kristen T. Prall