Do you have trouble fitting exercise into your life? Join the club. Sometimes, everything else comes first. And yet, being active can be key to feeling young and healthy.
I know that. You know that. And so do the three gentlemen I met in the Fit to Live exercise group at the South Portland Recreation Center. All in shape, all active, all in their 90s.
Curtis Bixby will be 92 in January. It’s just a number, he told me.
“Ninety-one is like 88,” he said. “When people ask me how I feel at 91, I say I don’t feel any different than I did when I was 88.”
I laughed out loud at that one.
Three mornings a week, Curtis heads over to the Rec Center. The fitness instructor is Patty Medina. She used to be with the Lifeline program at University of Southern Maine. (By the way, Curtis was a student at USM when he was doing the Lifeline Program. He graduated with an English degree at the age of 71.)
When the Lifeline program closed, Curtis followed Patty to South Portland. He’s been following her lead for 21 years and it shows.
“I would not be in good shape mentally and physically if I didn’t come here,” he says. “If I sat around in my recliner all day I would not be in good condition. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even be here. To get up, get dressed, get out and exercise is extremely important.”
And it’s important to exercise the right way, says Patty. “There are three reasons why people get hurt when they begin an exercise program.
They skip the warm-up and the cool down.
They do too much too soon.
They don’t use proper technique. They use the wrong machine or the wrong bike seating adjustment. Or they have poor posture.”
Frank Carroll, who just turned 94, has high praise for Patty’s techniques.
“This is the finest class I’ve ever been in,” he says.
Frank has been active his entire life.
“Staying in shape is primary,” he says. “You can’t avoid aging, but exercise can keep you young. It’s good for your soul. I’m in good shape. Yes, I am.”
He does have one complaint about Patty’s class. Well, not really a complaint, more like an observation. Why aren’t there more men in the class? There’s about one man for every 10 women. Patty wishes more men would sign up, as well. They can expect a good workout. She starts out the class with warm-ups and stretches. Then strength training with weights for the upper body and lower legs. She also tries to slip in some prevention information and mini-workshops on how the body works.
The weights come off and they launch into chair aerobics. They may be sitting down, but no one is sitting still. They’re getting a good cardio workout. That’s the point.
Steve Simonds and his late wife used to take bicycle tours throughout Europe and the United States. He and his daughters are planning one for next year. Going to Patty’s class is good training.
“It helps with endurance and strength and coordination,” he says. “I need to be doing something regularly so I can do the other things I love doing. Like biking and kayaking and walking with my kids. I tried a little skiing again last year.”
I almost forgot to tell you. Steve turned 91 the day before Thanksgiving.
The average age in the Fit to Live class is 74. Just kids, say Curtis and Frank and Steve. Just kids.
The blog post was originally published in the Advantage Home Care blog, which is also written by Diane Atwood.