Fit at 96

Oldest member of Lacamas Swim & Sport shows that age is just a state of mind

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“Ask yourself if what you are doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.”

This popular quote can be seen in many a fitness studio, cubicle, or mirror, as a reminder of why people do what they do.

Most would probably agree that Jack Buchholz is doing exactly what this statement suggests.

At 96 years old, the Camas resident faithfully attends fitness classes at Lacamas Swim & Sport three times a week. Buchholz also shows up an hour before class to lift weights and use the stationary bicycle or treadmill.

“By exercising, I am still able to live alone and be independent,” he said. “If you start sitting and watching T.V. all the time, you’re going to have to depend on someone else.”

Buchholz began working out in his mid-80s, admittedly after some “arm twisting” by a few of his friends.

“I was having trouble with my balance and I knew I had to do something, but I had never exercised before,” he said. “Now, I have been here 11 years and it is so worth it to come here. It is good for my physical and mental fitness, as well as my health. You don’t want to eat poorly when you exercise because it doesn’t feel good.”

Karen Evoniuk, SilverSneakers and Silver&Fit program advisor, noted that age can never be used as an excuse for other class participants to skip workouts, considering that Buchholz is decades older than some of them.

“He inspires us all with his cheerfulness and positive attitude,” she said. “Sometimes, people won’t feel like coming to class but they do because they know he will be there. When they tell me, ‘I’m too old to work out,’ I introduce them to Jack.”

For many people, getting to the gym is the biggest challenge. The same is true for Buchholz.

“Then, once you’re here, the trick is actually going and working out,” he said. “I’m not trying to put anyone down, but a lot of people just sit and socialize. You need to exercise, too.”

Due to his rigorous exercise program and careful diet, Buchholz has a lean physique that enables him to be flexible enough to touch his nose to his shin while putting his his right foot on his left knee, a considerable feat for anyone, but especially someone nearing 100.

“Flexibility happens quite well if you’re not too heavy,” he said. “That’s when it gets difficult.”

Buchholz’s training regimen isn’t limited to the gym, either. Every day, he tries to do squats, as well as various leg, shoulder and arm exercises.

“I try to do things that are easy to do at this point in my life,” he said.

When he is not busy working out, Buchholz enjoys playing Sudoku to retain his mental fitness. He also sings in a church choir, attends Bible study classes and serves on the advisory committee for the Parkersville National Historic Site.

“I can’t imagine just sitting and doing nothing,” he said. “That’s how people die.”

For anyone who hesitates to exercise or says they “hate” working out, Buchholz suggests keeping an open mind and staying positive.

“Try and come at least one time a week, and try several things until you find something you enjoy,” he said. “Once you do, get busy and do what you can.”

Buchholz also enjoys the social interaction at the gym, after he is finished with his workouts.

He and son Melvin can often be spotted holding the doors open for other participants after class, exchanging greetings and smiles.

“My dad is a huge inspiration,” Melvin said. “He got me coming here after I lost my leg and told me I could still exercise. I think he is inspiring to everyone.”

Recently, club members organized a surprise 96th birthday party for Buchholz.

“I was shocked,” he said. “There were so many people here.”

Evoniuk noted that Buchholz has made many friends over the years, and motivates people of all ages to keep working out.

“Exercising saved his life, and he wants to share that enthusiasm with others,” she said. “Now and then you will hear people say, ‘It hurts to exercise,’ and Jack always tells them, ‘It hurts more if you don’t.'”

Buchholz isn’t one to make excuses for why he can’t do something.

“Be positive and just do it,” he said.