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Personal trainer fights for a happier, healthier community

Saturday 17 February 2024 | Written by Candice Luke | Published in Business, Features, Go Local, National


Personal trainer fights for a  happier, healthier community
Personal trainer Chris Denny launches new health programme “Gym and Juice” on Monday. CANDICE LUKE/ 24021560

Heart diseases, stroke, and heart attack made up 53 per cent of NCD (non-communicable disease) deaths in the Cook Islands from October to December last year. A new grassroots initiative ‘Gym and Juice Club’ may help to battle the Cook Islands’ increasing NCD diagnoses and waistlines.

With 30 years of experience in health and fitness, personal trainer Chris Denny says his programme will build healthier people, happier families, and take pressure off the healthcare system.

“It doesn’t matter your age, size or capability. It’s about getting in the gym, and getting good food into your body. That’s a good start,” says Denny.

Membership includes a freshly made smoothie or juice delivered daily within the Avarua area, a gym membership at Top Shape Gym, and a tailored weight training programme with support and advice.

“You can still be big, and strong, and healthy. You don’t have to be skinny. Consistency is first. Get into a routine.”

Diet is one of the keys to unlocking better health, says Denny.

“Cook Islanders health deteriorated when high calorie foods ended up on shelves. White bread, sugar, rice; we use these as a filler. But that’s what’s killing our people.

“I see kids going to school with a $6 Mother (energy drink) in their hand. That stuff is poisonous!”

Denny says he doesn’t want to take foods away, but portions could be smaller and include more nutrient dense options.

“I go to the market in the morning and there’s chops and BBQ and mushroom sauce. I can’t even digest that food that early. And then in the evening if you have a big dinner with the family then go to sleep, what’s the body doing? Storing.”

Denny’s daily smoothie delivery serves as a meal replacement, with options for energy, gut health, and muscle repair. Members can also access prepared meals through the club.

Muscle mass decreases between three and five per cent every decade after the age of 30, according to Harvard Medical School. Most men will lose about thirty per cent of their muscle mass during their lifetimes.

The programme focuses on weight training as Denny sees that as the most beneficial way for Polynesians to train.

“Muscle movement burns more calories and stored energy. For us it’s about higher reps with lighter weights.”

Denny urges men to prioritise their health for the sake of their families.

“A lot of men are now having heart attacks in their forties and fifties. That’s too young! Children are losing their fathers at a young age because they won’t look after themselves properly.”

He says people know what they need to do for better health but encouragement is needed: “It needs to suit them. Some people don’t like to be yelled at. I focus on them just turning up.”

In 2020 during a routine check-up Denny was told he had high blood pressure.

“He (the doctor) gave me aspirin and tablets for cholesterol. But I’m allergic to aspirin. My face blew up and I couldn’t see out of my eyes.”

This brush with ill health pushed Denny to seek his own remedies through a nutritious diet and fitness.

“Intervention is needed. It’s not about medicine. It’s about getting in the gym.”

Denny says that the Government could relieve pressure on taxpayers and the health system by subsidising programmes like his “instead of putting people on a plane to New Zealand”.

“A gym membership costs hundreds of dollars per year. Sending someone to NZ for treatment costs thousands.”

He encourages more fitness groups to start but he knows the Cook Islands lacks qualified fitness professionals.

“To satisfy the need there should be more facilities with more trainers, subsidies for those who are on the borderline of being sick, a reduction of processed foods, and more education for children. We need to get them into health and fitness at a younger age, and off the devices.”

Denny’s ultimate goal is to build the immunity of Cook Islanders so their bodies can fight disease and people can live longer, more fulfilling lives.

“If it takes me delivering a healthy juice to their door, I’ll do it.”

“Gym and Juice” starts on Monday, February 19. To join contact Chris Denny on 76132.