- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Seymour Horowitz, a retired 72-year-old from Arlington, likes to show off his muscles, especially his shoulders. He has been a patron of BeYond FitNess in Arlington for seven years, coming in three times week like clockwork, and he says he doesn't plan to quit anytime soon. As he lifts 82- pounds on the leg-extension machine, Mr. Horowitz explains why he exercises so much.

"I was a couch potato," he says with a laugh.

"And I had rheumatic heart disease," he adds, more seriously this time. Doctors who diagnosed his condition when he was 19 told him to stay put and remain inactive, Mr. Horowitz says. Things changed after he underwent a prosthetic valve replacement a decade ago.

"I was kind of frightened and nervous there," he says. "I have since discovered that the conventional wisdom has changed exercise is now extremely important."

A recent surgeon general's report gives credence to Mr. Horowitz's claim. The report, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says more than 60 percent of U.S. adults don't "achieve the recommended amount of physical activity" and 25 percent are completely sedentary.

Adults should be exercising three to four days a week for about 30 minutes a day, says Dr. Donald Paup, director of the exercise science program at the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University.

This should be at the "moderate to vigorous intensity level," which translates into anything from brisk walking to jogging, Dr. Paup says.

• • •

Gina Fortuna-Williams, the owner and operator of BeYond FitNess and Mr. Horowitz's personal trainer, started her business five years ago with a strong vision.

"The motivator for me is to see my clients improve, get leaner, get stronger," Ms. Fortuna-Williams says. That goal seems to drive her business, which serves about 50 clients. Customers don't buy memberships but pay for individual training sessions.

"If you're not an attorney, you wouldn't go and practice law," she says, describing her fitness training philosophy. "People should also hire someone who knows what they're doing in the fitness industry."

Mr. Horowtiz believes in the added benefits of a personal trainer.

"The advantage of Gina is that she's now become a friend," Mr. Horowitz says. "I don't have the discipline. She's concerned when I eat donuts."

"But he still does," Ms. Fortuna-Williams says, feigning frustration.

Linda Cole, another patron of BeYond FitNess and a friend to Ms. Fortuna-Williams, does marketing for a roofing company from her home in Alexandria. The slim 51-year-old trains with 20-pound weights in each hand as she explains her fitness-friendly attitude.

"The most important thing about it is that it makes me feel much better about the way I look," she says.

For Ms. Cole, physical benefits accompany the psychological benefits of regular exercise.

"I feel like I can do everything I want to do," she says. "Very rarely do I get sick."

Those who want to exercise regularly might not have the time, inclination or financial means to buy a gym membership or pay a personal trainer. Dr. Kerry Stewart, director of clinical exercise physiology at Johns Hopkins University, says making small improvements can result in big payoffs.

"Even small increases above and beyond being a couch potato will produce benefits," he says.

Dr. Stewart suggests that taking short jaunts around the neighborhood can replace hitting the gym for exercise.

"Brisk walking is probably the most obvious way, which can be done outdoors, or indoors on a track, or in a mall," Dr. Stewart says. "That would provide enormous benefits to large numbers of people."

In a nation where almost half of adolescents are not vigorously active on a regular basis and 14 percent of them are competely inactive, it's no wonder adults aren't in the habit of exercising.

"You always seem like you come up with a reason not to do it, or something else comes up or whatever," Ms. Cole says.

There's hope, though, for the exercise-challenged. If working adults don't have a 30-minute block to devote to exercise each day, they should exercise in small bits, Dr. Stewart says.

"Grab what you can, when you can," he says. "Climb steps instead of taking the elevator. At least try to accumulate 30 minutes of exercise throughout the day."

Some fitness gyms cater to the schedules of busy workers. One on One Fitness, located downtown at 1750 K St. NW, provides workout clothes, towels, lockers and even personal toiletries.

"We try to make it convenient by supplying clothing and all that so people just come in and grab their stack," says personal trainer Doug Sanford, referring to the bundles of gym attire neatly lined up at the front counter. The clothing is sized individually and labeled for each customer.

The facility could pass as a department store. A look inside through the massive storefront window reveals a chic environment state-of-the-art equipment, designer trim and a luxurious locker room.

A few afternoons each week, you'll also see Christian Walser, 68, jogging effortlessly on a treadmill. Mr. Walser, an executive at the World Bank, has been hitting the gym several times a week since November. He already has noticed a difference.

"Oh, I feel much better," he says. "All of the physical things I do are working out better because I'm in better physical shape."

Mr. Walser says he uses a personal trainer to optimize his workouts.

"The great thing here is that there's somebody with you," he says, still pounding away on the treadmill. "If I do these things alone, then I either do too much or too little." Mr. Walser appears to glide effortlessly through his blazing workout, tackling the stair-stepper machine and executing two sets of leg lunges before throwing in his towel for the day.

Martin Jones, the facility manager at One on One Fitness, says his gym emphasizes meeting the needs of individual customers. That's why the fitness parlor offers just 100 memberships at any one time.

"We have it limited so that we still have lots of room," Mr. Jones says. "Our customers can move from one piece of equipment to the next very efficiently during training sessions."

• • •

Whether you hire a personal trainer or just walk around your neighborhood, health experts agree that getting off the couch is in the best interest of Americans.

"A major myth is that you have to do an awful lot," Dr. Stewart says, "but working very hard does not necessarily produce additional health benefits."

Dr. Paup has another myth to debunk.

"We always think that you want to play a sport to get in shape, but it's the other way around," he says.

Both doctors agree that the prevalent defeatist "no pain, no gain" attitude misleads Americans into believing exercise has to be painful.

"New data show that pain is not necessary," Dr. Paup says. "The level of exercise at the moderate level is enough to gain longevity and quality of life."

The health benefits of exercising regularly are obvious to those who do so just ask Mr. Horowitz.

"It's good for the ego," he says. "Even the sweat and feeling good about myself is essential."

At the ripe age of 72, most senior citizens have stopped worrying about their looks. Mr. Horowitz is still working on his.

"As a matter of fact, there are even some women who actually think they see some definition in my shoulder," he says, glancing over at Ms. Fortuna-Williams, who nods her head in agreement.

For Mr. Horowitz, fitness is a path through life, marked by milestones of achievement along the way.

"It's essential; there's no question about it," he says. "I'm here bragging about how many push-ups I can do. I never did that before."


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