A MORRIS man hit the headlines this week after revealing he lost a staggering 15 stone through his love for the dance.
Lancashire father-of-two Richard Landon, 47, reportedly piled on the pounds after losing his job.
But he waved goodbye to the pies and pints, picked up his stick and handkerchief and started dancing.
Many wannabe fit folk turn to gyms and the like to trim their tums but, according to Flintshire resident Denise Deegan, 61, eccentric exercises can also do the job.
Denise is a member of Clerical Error, a morris side based in Ysgeifiog.
She said: “I don’t know if it’s so much that our members have lost weight to join – but it’s true that once you start dancing, you do get trimmer.
“It’s very energetic. There’s lots of movement and the longer you’re a member, the fitter you’ll get.”
For many, morris dancing is a bit of an anachronism, with the slightly un-PC blacked-up faces, the pagan-like imagery and the old folk music. But perhaps it can be the answer to a modern problem.
Denise said: “When people start, they tend to get tired out after the first couple of dances which go on for about five minutes each.
“Then their fitness improves. Once you’ve been doing it for some time, you build up stamina.
“It does work! I went along to my GP recently for a check up and they asked ‘what are your hobbies?’ to get an idea of how active my lifestyle was.
“I mentioned gardening, walking the dog and Morris dancing and immediately, they said: ‘Oh, well. You’ll be fit then.”
As well as the weekly exercise, which increases in the summer-performance season, the sense of community helps.
Denise said: “Some of the group took part in a weight loss challenge. They set their own targets of what to go for. But we’re pretty fit anyway. You have to be.
“Mind you, we aren’t all slender things. I’m pretty well covered but being healthy is the main thing.”
Morris dancing is not without its risks.
Denise pointed out: “I can see why this chap (Mr Landon) might have enjoyed a bit too much food and drink. We very often dance near pubs.
“In fact, Clerical Error is based at the Fox Inn in Ysgeifiog! But not everyone drinks. It’s all about moderation.”
Some traditional British pastimes, though, have a bit of catching up to do.
Ray Williams, who oversees the Coedpoeth Snooker Hall, said none of the regulars, to his knowledge, had shed the pounds playing pool or snooker.
He said: “It’s not the most active of games. I’ll admit I'm a bit overweight – but we have two things going for us. First, we aren’t on the ground floor so there’s a set of stairs to run up.
“Secondly, we cater for a lot of other groups. There’s a fitness class on Monday mornings where ladies aged up to 80 go along. They are an example to us all.
“Now you’ll have to excuse me. I need to run up the stairs!”
Several Flintshire, Wrexham and Chester residents have gotten healthy to enable them to do the things they love.
John Bank of Chester admitted: “I gave up smoking to take up scuba diving. It worked really well – paid for my initial training also. Smoke free since 2009 and I’m still diving."
Jo Horrocks, also of Chester, said: “I used to go to the gym all the time and felt great.
Then I had a child and put weight on. I recently lost half a stone and it gave me some get up and go.”
Yoga and pilates instructor Helen Conway, based at The Old Chapel in Chester, said: “One of my clients came to me because she was a keen golfer but in a lot of pain – so she couldn’t continue.
“I worked on her in one-on-one pilates sessions to strengthen her back and the result was pretty drastic. She’s back on the green now.
“There are people who are put off training because they feel they will be judged.
They think they have to lose weight first.
“That’s not the case. It’s all about finding something you want to do with a good group of people.”
Siobhan Rogers, of Wrexham, was motivated to lose weight by a break up.
She said: “Leaving my husband sparked it off. Being a single mum of two boys, I found my health was suffering so I’ve turned into a super motivated lady. I’ve lost two stone in 10 weeks and feel great.”