Local 90-year-olds attribute longevity to regular exercise
James Coleman does bench presses on a weight machine.
That is why on an average weekday morning it is not uncommon for a group of elderly workout enthusiasts to congregate at the Anytime Fitness on Highway 90 in Luling.
Ellis Verdin, 91, is one such gym member. The Lafitte-native was in the Marine Corps in World War II and then worked in oil fields all over the country, finishing up his career with two years at Monsanto at the age of 78.
It is not secret why Verdin waited eight years past his eligible retirement age to finally quit working. “You’ve got to keep going. If you don’t do anything your body is going to shut down,” he said. “I’m not one to watch TV. I stay active. I like to go.”
Even when he experienced an awful accident at work in which he lost an eye and his eye socket was broken, Verdin was back at work rather quickly.
“I was only out of work for a month or two,” he said. No stranger to hard work, Verdin goes to Anytime Fitness four days a week where he mainly lifts weights on weight machines for about an hour a day. In addition, he still uses a push mower to mow the double lot his house sits on in the Lakewood area of Luling.
He said going to the gym is really not all that much different from the work he used to perform in the oil fields.
“I’ve been working out all my life. I’ve been in this gym since they built it and at another in Luling before that. Before that I was out in the oil field where you have to lift heavy weights all of the time,” Verdin said.
Outside of his dedication to keeping his body in the best condition possible, Verdin said he also has a family history of longevity. His great-grandmother lived to be 112 and his mother was 96 when she passed away.
Verdin said he anticipates coming to the gym as long as he possibly can.
“As long as I am coming over here I think I will still be working out for a long time,” he said.
Similarly, 90-year-old Luling resident James Coleman said he will keep coming to the gym until he is no longer able to do so.
“I don’t know how long I’ll work out. As long as I can. The good Lord has the answer,” he said.
At the age of 63, Coleman retired after a long career at Union Carbide right around the time he began to have high blood pressure. He also experienced a heart arrhythmia that required the implantation of a pacemaker.
“I got scared with the heart and I weighed 210 pounds. I started working out and now I’m down to 170,” Coleman said. After losing weight and becoming more active, Coleman’s health has held out.
“I’m on my fourth pacemaker battery. I don’t know if I hold the record, but I must be close. The least I’ve gone before changing the battery is eight years and the longest is 12 years,” he said.
Even for those who are older, but still maintain a youthful look, Coleman said it is important to keep active. “Looks are deceiving. Like a car with 100,000 miles, you never know when something is going to go,” he said. “The real reason I am here is to save my legs. You see a lot of folks my age in wheelchairs because their legs give out on them.”
Coleman said he would encourage anyone in the elderly community to push themselves to exercise.
“It’s not easy, but the benefits are worth it. You’ve just got to start,” he said. “The secret is to ease into it, but it’s hard when the skinny little girl has gotten off the machine in front of you and you have to decrease the weight.”
In addition, Coleman said the community benefits are a plus. “The good thing about working out here is that it is a small area. You get to know the people and say ‘hi’ and they worry about you if they don’t see you,” he said.
The gym has even reached out to the elderly and provides a Silver Sneaker class exclusively aimed at getting St. Charles Parish’s older citizens involved and keeping them active.
In a large room located at the end of the shopping plaza, gym members 60 and up do squats and run in place as a gym staff member tells them to change exercises over music playing softly in the background.
Hershel Burleigh, at 88, is a few years behind Verdin and Coleman. He is dressed in sweats and wearing a headband. Burleigh said being in the class without trying to overdo a workout was enough for him to feel good.
“Just to be active at my age is successful,” he said.
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