Physical activity helps seniors stay independent - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Physical activity helps seniors stay independent

We've all heard it before: Diet and exercise are keys to a healthy life.

When you see 70, 80, and 90-year-olds jumping around and walking briskly, there's pretty much no excuse for being a couch potato!

The climb to success comes easy for 65-year-old Jonna Otto. She's been flipping out in gymnastics classes for more than four years now.

"We have a lot of people in our 80's that are doing wonderfully. I'm one of the younger ones," says Otto.

A healthy lifestyle sprouts from Otto's family tree. Her mother, 93-year-old Helen Merrick, still occasionally competes in gymnastics competitions with her peers.

"One meet, we had five 90-year-olds, and it was vicious competition," says gerontologist Dr. Max Vercruyssen.

Vercruyssen says the secret to a long, healthy life is all in the way we think.

"When you have people that have that kind of attitude, I don't care about what is going on and I'm not going to be limited in my activities - they have a pretty good prognosis for a long life," he explains.

Health experts say staying active and strong not only makes you healthier, but also keeps you independent.

"Once you lose mobility, then you're either depending on something or someone and, down the line, you're going to eventually do that - but let's prolong that," says Mike Nakashima, an instructor.

The thing to remember is: It's never too late to start!

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