Woman receives Empire Medal for work in health and fitness

Claire's British Empire Medal

A British Empire Medal - Credit: Claire Saunders

Cheryl Burns, 74, is a well-loved Fitness and Health instructor in Hampstead Heath who is receiving a British Empire Medal for her work with the elderly.

She began her fitness career at a young age when she worked as a professional dancer and her passion for dance has since led to a nearly 40-year career teaching the sport to very eager students. 

After teaching for 20 years in the north, she returned home to Hampstead where she spent an additional 20 years teaching until the present. 

Cheryl has demonstrated a clear commitment to her students by offering courses specially designed for seniors. She has tailored her classes to be beneficial to one’s body, but also to be welcoming and inclusive for all.

She also often rewards students for their hard work by providing tea and cookies after Friday classes or inviting them to join her in her garden.

Friends and students have commended her for her dedication to teaching particularly during the pandemic when she adapted her practice to be more Covid conscious by having smaller, socially distanced gatherings.

Cheryl frequently went on walks with friends and clients during the pandemic when restrictions permitted it to keep the spirit of community alive thus ensuring that no one in her life felt alone.

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These walks would be taken primarily around Hampstead Heath, in keeping with lockdown regulations so as not to put loved ones at risk of contracting the disease.

These gatherings served as a beacon of hope for all who attended because it was a taste of pre-pandemic normalcy which also allowed her to continue to nurture the relationships between her and her clients.

She considers herself to be a facilitator rather than a catalyst for these relationships and she takes great pride in being a person for others.

“I’d like to accept on behalf of the whole industry of health and fitness who have supported a lot of people. I’m very fortunate to be able to help people in that capacity,” she said.