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Finding the inspiration to exercise
Local seniors bring book's wisdom on exercise to life

Date published: 6/12/2005

Four years ago, some leading experts on health and aging pooled their wisdom and poured it into a book. And on the first page, they laid bare the reasons sedentary older people avoid exercise.

"You may be afraid that physical exercise will harm you," they wrote in "Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging." "Or you may feel embarrassed to exercise because you think it's for younger people who look great in gym clothes."

The guidebook provides a pep talk for those battling health woes, lethargy and other obstacles to fitness in the older years.

The wisdom is brought to life by four Fredericksburg-area residents, each of whom was profiled this year in The Free Lance-Star.

Their exercise habits, perseverance and optimism are models for anyone hoping to age healthfully.

Milt Silverstein, an 85-year-old Spotsylvania County resident, barely exercised during decades of working and raising a family. But in retirement, he rediscovered an old love--sprinting. He still runs competitively despite arthritis, an irregular heartbeat and other health woes.

Peg Johnson, of Fredericksburg, tore her rotator cuff last year at 71, and knocked herself out during a spill on a tennis court several years back. But she keeps playing doubles matches every week because they keep her limber.

Marian Gushurst, 60, wasn't sure what she'd make of her first aerobics class 20 years ago. She never thought of herself as an athlete. But the class triggered an exercise craving that hasn't subsided. She feeds it with yoga as well as aerobics.

Ferris Portner, 76, of King George County, took up long-distance running in his late 40s and still trains for half-marathons. A few weeks ago, he ran a 10-kilometer race put on by the Fredericksburg Area Running Club.

The four have discovered that what the guidebook says is right: Exercise makes them feel better.

Their routines provide insight into what it takes to be fit in the older years:

Don't ever think it's too late to start exercising.

Silverstein, who had run track in college, didn't pick the sport back up again until he was nearly 70. Gushurst took that first aerobics class at about 40.

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