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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Pumping Iron to Stay Young?

This grandmother says it can help. And experts back her up.


Music, whether it's rock and roll or the latest R & B hit, helps. It provides not just a pleasant background but jazzes you up to lift a little longer.

Having a buddy who is enthusiastic about exercise helps, too. One of my buddies, Marilou, is a dedicated exerciser. She's really my role model at the gym. She's younger than I am and eats a low-fat diet, as I try to do. If I miss a day, I feel as though I owe her and my other gym pals an explanation. It's easier just to go.

The Routine

I never think about a workout in total. I always think "I'll go lift some weights for a little while," and end up, of course, doing my whole routine. Breaking a task up into small parts and thinking about just one of them makes it easier to deal with.

I alternate lower-body and upper-body weight machines, plus the ab machine for sit-ups to tame that ever-present midriff bulge. I also alternate the machines with free weights. I do 30 reps (that's weight-speak for "repetitions") with 8-pound free weights in each hand. Then I exchange those 8-pounders for 5-pounders to do side lifts.

Don't be intimidated by the machines. Most include a sticker with illustrations and instructions, or you can always ask your gym's trainer what's what.

Other Perks

After every workout I give myself a reward -- a piece of hard candy -- before driving home. The piece of candy means that I get an "A" in working out for the day. I deserve it.

The biggest incentive to keep going, however, is the personal feedback I get from working out. Regular visits to that fountain of youth called the gym keep stiffness at bay, restore my wobbly balance, and help stave off extra pounds. I'm just under 5 feet 2 inches tall, and I weigh in at 116 -- just 4 pounds above my college weight.

When I'm away from the gym, I really feel the difference. Getting out of a chair takes longer. Clothes grab me around the middle. I have to lean against a doorjamb to put on pants. Fortunately, I don't let anything keep me away for long.

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