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The pandemic may be making seniors less active and could have long-term impact

elderly exercise
Posted at 12:51 PM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 10:16:55-04

The shelves in Edith Murway’s home give you a glimpse into a life longer than most will ever know.

She was born in 1921.

“And that 100 years ago," Murway said.

While anyone who has seen a century firsthand has more than a story to tell, turn to page 64 of the Guinness Book of World Records.

“When people say, ‘You are a powerlifter? I say, ‘Yes, I am,” Murway said.

She holds the title of being the oldest competitive weightlifter on earth.

Since November, being active has been more difficult, with the fear of the omicron variant keeping her home.

“I haven’t been to the gym recently, mostly because the doctors have said stay away," Murway said. "Because you don’t know who's been vaccinated; you don’t know who’s not been vaccinated. You do not want to make the assumption that, ‘Eh, it’s OK, you stayed healthy this long.”

Murway is like many seniors who doctors worry are becoming new victims of pandemic life, unable to leave home and keep up with physical activity.

A University of Michigan study recently found nearly 40% of seniors say they have moved less since the start of the pandemic and feel more socially isolated.

“It’s not just physical. It’s also depressing. You can feel when your body starts to deteriorate, your mind knows that,” said 78-year old Carmen Gutwirth, who helped get Murway into weight training.

Gutwirth lifts weights multiple days a week with trainer Bill Beekley. She feels it helps her with her arthritis.

Beekley has made it his mission to help seniors stay active as they age. For years, he's trained seniors in a Tampa gym making sure they are doing the right amount of weight and keeping the proper form, so they don't get injured.

“Lifting heavy weights helps you build muscle, which you start to lose as you age as you age, and it also helps with bone density," Beekley explained.

Doctors agree and say weight training can especially strengthen bones in wrists, spines, and hips, the areas they say are most likely to break.

According to the CDC, physical activity, which can be as simple as walking, can help prevent or maintain four of the five most expensive chronic conditions seniors face in this country, like diabetes and heart disease.

Arthritis alone racks up medical costs of nearly $140 billion a year.

“I want to be able to move and continue to do what I want to do as long as I am able to live. If I can't, I don’t want to live," said 71-year-old Paula Winans.

While Murway has been away from the gym, she has been exercising at home to stay active. She says she plans to return to the gym soon.

She believes exercising has helped her live to 100, but that’s not her secret to a long life. It’s more about the strength of taking on something that may seem impossible and proving it isn't.

"They can find they are capable of doing almost anything in this world and what more could you ask for in life except to just enjoy it," Murway said.