By Martha Barksdale

Since 1963, the president has declared February as American Heart Month, a time to raise public awareness of this country’s No. 1 killer – cardiovascular disease. Volunteers go forth into the community to spread information about proper diet, regular exercise and other lifestyle changes that can prevent heart disease and stroke.

At Intown’s senior communities, in-house wellness centers make it easy for residents to stay in shape under the advice and watchful eyes of professional trainers.  For some of the residents, fitness has been a way of life for many years, while others are just beginning programs now after being fairly sedentary most of their lives. In any case, exercise and healthy living offer heart-healthy advantages regardless of your age.

Herb Rivers has lived at Calvin Court for about a year and takes full advantage of the wellness center and the advice of the exercise experts there.  He certainly has the incentive to stay in shape. After two heart attacks and heart surgeries, Rivers wants to give himself every advantage toward preventing more problems.

Rivers says he visits the wellness center three times a week to work on the weight machines, then alternates activities two more days. “I ride a stationary bike, do yoga, tai chi,” he reports. The retired attorney has lost about 40 pounds over the past year and says his blood pressure is down to normal.

He would recommend that everyone get their doctor’s OK and begin a fitness program: “I feel so much better than I did when I came here.” When asked his age, Rivers mischievously responds: “67 going on 13.”

While Rivers is fairly new to the fitness world, working out has been part of Howell Adams Sr.’s life for nearly four decades. In 1972, he said, an exercise physiologist began a program at his country club, and he and a friend decided to join the eight-week regimen.

Adams said he was always active in his youth, but never really thought he was good enough to try out for the varsity teams in school. So it came as something of a surprise to him when he responded so well to the exercise program.

Over the eight weeks, Adams remembers, his resting pulse rate dropped from 72 at the beginning to 47 by the end of the program. His heart rate in the initial testing was 120; by the end of the program, it was 66 at the same point in the workout.

Adams was hooked and began a 37-year program of cardio work and strength training that he continues to this day in the wellness center at Canterbury Court. He has cut running out of his routine over the past year because of balance problems.  Now 78, he says he has the blood pressure of a teenager, 116/66.

With the help of wellness center director Andrew Wiltz, Adams has developed a routine that focuses on keeping his cardiovascular system in good shape. Stretching is part of his routine every morning when he arises at 6 a.m., but three days a week he heads to the wellness center for an hour and a half workout.  He straps on a heart monitor and starts out with this cardio work on the ellipticals, pushing to get his heart rate up to 140 for 10 or 12 minutes twice during the hour he spends on the machine. For the final 30 minutes of his workout, he rotates between seven different machines, working on his upper body.

Adams takes his workout with him wherever he goes. He says he just purchased a machine similar to the one he uses at Canterbury Court for his farm in Tennessee.  “Hotels have fitness centers now,” he pointed out. “We’ve taken a lot of cruises, and I use their facilities, too.”

His advice to anyone thinking about beginning a fitness program: “It’s never too late to start. We’ve got people here in their 90s who never worked out, and they’re right there in the gym now.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.