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Fit for life

Starting off the New Year on the right foot is easy at Oak Crest

Created date

December 23rd, 2013
two men in race outfits with trainer

If you ask Michelle Caldwell how old she feels, she’ll tell you not a day over 40. Thanks to an active lifestyle and vigorous fitness routine, the 64-year-old is enjoying some of the best years of her life. But it hasn’t always been that way. Like many Americans, exercise wasn’t always a priority for Michelle.

“My doctor told me I was overweight and close to becoming a diabetic; I was on high blood pressure and high cholesterol medicine,” says Michelle. “He said I needed to exercise and lose weight.”

Luckily for Michelle, who lives at Crest, an Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md, staying fit is easier than ever thanks to a state-of-the-art, on-site fitness center.

Noticeably healthier, more fit

“The obstacle of having to drive to work out is removed,” says Michelle. “It takes me three minutes to get to the fitness center. This makes it easier to be consistent to my commitment to exercise.”

Michelle now works out five days a week in the fitness center and two days a week off-site in a kettle bell class. Her persistence is paying off. She recently deadlifted 201 pounds. 

“Since I have been exercising, I have become noticeably stronger and more balanced. I’m losing inches, have more energy, and I no longer take high blood pressure or cholesterol medicine,” says Michelle. 

For those of us who don’t have a fitness center down the hall, getting to the gym regularly can be half the battle. Statistics show that of the 50.2 million gym memberships sold in 2012, 67% went unused. And although millions of people will start off this New Year committed to getting fit, it takes more than good intentions to succeed. Experts say the key is to customize your exercise program to fit your lifestyle and specific needs.  

“There is no one exercise that is the best for everyone,” says Gordon Blackburn, Ph.D., program director of Cardiac Rehabilitation in the Section of Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute.

“The best exercises are those that are appropriate for your ability, that you perform routinely, that you enjoy the most, and that positively contribute to helping you reach your goal. To optimize success, consider all four issues when setting up your personal exercise program,” says Blackburn.

Michelle credits her strong Christian faith for helping her reach her fitness goals.   

“I think your desire to live a quality life has to be stronger than your desire to stay in bed,” says Michelle, who is getting married this summer. “For me, it’s my deep faith that has really carried me this far. My mom used to tell me I was an eternal optimist. I have bad days just like everyone but I don’t wear them. Exercise has given me even more optimism.” 

Running man

For lifetime runner Bob Gralley, doing what he loves is what keeps him going. At 87, Bob was the oldest participant in this fall’s Baltimore Running Festival—a title he’s proud of.

“To some people, running is work. But for me, it’s a hobby; it’s something I enjoy,” says Bob, who lives at Oak Crest. “I feel very fortunate to be able run this far at this stage in my life. You hear so many things about how exercise plays a big role in good health, and for me that has really held true.”  

In a week, Bob runs an average of 19 miles and bikes 15 to 20 miles. Over the last four decades he has run in 42 marathons and kept track of every mile. He attributes the support of his family and the convenience of living at a community like Oak Crest to the longevity of his running career. 

“My wife and kids have really supported me over the years,” says Bob. “And one of the advantages of living at Oak Crest is having a great fitness center just a few steps away. If it’s really cold or raining or snowing, I will go over and run on the treadmill.”

Bob offers this advice to anyone just starting out: “Find something you like doing and start out slow. If you try to do too much too soon, you can get turned off. You don’t start off running a marathon the first day,” he says.