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posted: 7/10/2011 6:00 AM

Exercise keeping octogenarians fit

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  • Retired farmer Glenn Bradd, 87, of Bloomington, Ill., uses a punching bag during a workout at the YMCA in Bloomington. Three days a week, he lifts weights, jumps rope, uses the punching bag, does sit-ups and stretching.

      Retired farmer Glenn Bradd, 87, of Bloomington, Ill., uses a punching bag during a workout at the YMCA in Bloomington. Three days a week, he lifts weights, jumps rope, uses the punching bag, does sit-ups and stretching.
    Steve Smedley/The Pantagraph

  • Retired farmer Glenn Bradd, 87, of Bloomington, Ill., shows off his abdominals after working out at the YMCA in Bloomington.

      Retired farmer Glenn Bradd, 87, of Bloomington, Ill., shows off his abdominals after working out at the YMCA in Bloomington.
    Steve Smedley/The Pantagraph

 
By Paul Swiech
The (Bloomington) Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- Following his workout, Glenn Bradd lifted his shirt to reveal tight abdominals.

"I've still got a six-pack," the retired farmer said. "I'm not bragging. But I have worked for this."

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"I think I'm doing pretty good for 87."

That's right. Bradd, of Bloomington, will turn 87 on July 22. He has been exercising at the Bloomington-Normal YMCA for more than 50 years.

"It's wonderful," said his primary care physician, Dr. Mike Woods of OSF Medical Group-College Avenue, Bloomington.

"He's muscular, he's toned, he's slender in the middle, he's flexible and he has the posture of a younger man," Woods said.

"He's almost like the Jack LaLanne of Bloomington-Normal," Woods said, referring to the fitness expert who died recently at age 96. "I've enjoyed seeing how he's thrived over the years."

Bradd is not alone as a longtime exerciser who has remained active over 80.

Bill Scott of Bloomington, who turns 82 on July 10, also remains fit, thanks to physical and mental exercise and healthy eating. Scott has been working out at the YMCA for 64 years.

A longtime stock and commodities broker manager, Scott continues to keep an eye on the stock market and soon will make his annual trip to hike in the Appalachian Mountains.

While some people focus on their genetic predisposition to certain diseases, lifestyle is important, Scott argued.

"One really does create one's own life," Scott said.

While there are exceptions because of health conditions, many people can remain physically active and mentally healthy into their 80s, Woods said.

"The key is perseverance. Studies through the years have shown that we start physical decline at age 50, if not earlier," Woods said. "If we exercise -- cardio, weight training and flexibility -- we can keep the functional status of a 50-year-old into our 80s."

"The reason they are in such good health is because of their discipline," said B.J. Wilken, executive director of the Bloomington-Normal YMCA, 602 S. Main St., Bloomington.

"They are so regimented," Wilken said. "It's the old adage of diet and exercise and they both do it in a disciplined manner."

Wilken sees another benefit to their physical activity.

"Rarely are they in a down mood," he said. "They are really just enjoying life. There's a lesson there for all of us."

Bradd, a World War II veteran, farmed in the Saybrook area until 12 years ago and was a breeder of registered Angus cattle.

He joined the YMCA more than 50 years ago when it was at Washington and East streets in Bloomington. He'd come there to work with free weights, run and stretch.

When he was in his 50s, he began running regularly and competing in track meets from coast to coast, including the National Masters Track and Field Meet. At age 62, he set a world record for his age group in the 400 meters (59.1 seconds) and at age 80, he was national champion in the steeplechase and the 300-meter hurdles, earning All-American honors.

At age 80, he stopped running competitively but exercises at the YMCA six days a week. "I go to church on Sunday."

Three days a week, he lifts weights, jumps rope, uses the punching bag, does sit-ups and stretching.

"I did 210 pounds in bench press when I was 80, but I don't lift that heavy anymore," he said. "I don't want to tear myself up in my old age."

The three other days a week, he runs in the Y pool using a flotation belt.

"I like to exercise. I like the health benefits. I feel good at 87. I feel agile. I feel strong. It's a healthy way of life."

Coupled with his exercise is healthy eating. He eats a variety of vegetables and a limited amount of meat.

The results are obvious to Woods.

"He has no coronary artery disease, which is rare in a man his age. He has no sign of strokes. He has no peripheral vascular issues in his legs. He has been able to avoid diabetes. His arthritis is minimal. He functions like a man who is 20 years younger."

Woods said Bradd "shows us what's possible if we make a long-term commitment to exercise.

"He's a wonderful example of maintaining independence and enjoying one's life."

Scott, a Bloomington native, first came to the Y at Washington and East streets at age 17.

"There was not much equipment down there, so we had to improvise," he said. Members helped to build weight racks and some brought their own weights.

"It was functional. The Y was a great place to be because there were a lot of interesting people there. I made a variety of friends ages 18 to 80."

Scott lifted weights and ran. In his 50s -- out of respect for his small and aging bone structure and to reduce the risk of injury -- he decided to take his weight down from 218 pounds to 167 pounds. He traded high-calorie foods, salt, refined sugar, commercial baked goods and red meat for whole grains, skim milk, fruits, vegetables, salmon and chicken breasts.

He switched from running to the stationary bike and moved from heavy free weights to weight machines, focusing on lighter weights but more repetitions.

Scott exercises three to four days a week, with 45 minutes on weight machines and 30 minutes on the stationary bike.

In addition, he is a reader of history, economics, science, politics and Chinese poetry, keeps up with the stock market, and is in contact with a variety of people.

"You've got to keep the neurons popping," he said.

The results are clear, he said. He feels good, is in fine health and has only minor arthritis. He suffered a mild heart attack seven years ago but was out of the hospital in 31 hours.

"Exercise makes it possible for me to go out and participate in about anything I want to participate in," Scott said.

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