By Michelle Caceres
Starting an exercise regimen is never easy, especially at ninety-six-years-old. For Tampa resident Howard Ledbetter it took encouragement from his niece, who called him three years ago and invited him to walk the indoor track with her at First Baptist Brandon’s Ministry and Activities Center (MAC).
Today, the 99-year-old Ledbetter gets dropped off at the gym every day (except weekends), where he walks between two and three miles daily. Between laps he does exercises to strengthen his arms and legs.
His dedication has paid off.
“I’m stronger now than I was fifty years ago,” said Ledbetter, founder of Ledbetter’s Repair Shop, specializing in the repair of Mercedes Benz vehicles. “I also am still independent, have a better appetite, sleep well at night.”
When he started exercising, he could walk unassisted but now, because of arthritis in his knees, uses a walker, which has actually allowed him to walk at a faster pace.
“If I had known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself when I was younger,” said Ledbetter, who says his doctor approves of his exercise routine.
Experts agree that exercise helps keep aging bodies healthy by increasing blood flow to the brain, carrying extra oxygen and other nutrients. It also helps keep blood pressure and blood sugar at normal levels, lowering the risk for vascular dementia.
Tampa resident Beatrice Gillespie, who walks the track while her daughter is in school at First Baptist’s Academy, thinks Ledbetter is an inspiration.
“He’s so committed and always so pleasant and ready to offer smiles and say hi to other walkers,” she said.
Ledbetter said he doesn’t know where he’d be if he hadn’t taken up walking. “At my age if I didn’t come out here and walk I wouldn’t last a month,” he said. “Just sitting around and doing nothing is no way to live.”
The MAC is located at the corner of Morgan and Edwards Streets and offers many different fitness and recreational activities, including basketball, racquetball, game room, weight room and group exercise classes. Membership to the MAC is open to the public. For more information about the MAC call 315-3280.