After a century of life on this earth, Marcus is a fit man whose smooth face and wavy white hair make him look at least 30 years younger than what it says on his driver's license. So many people have asked Marcus for the secret to his longevity that he's memorized a schticky answer:
"One, you gotta have good genes," he says.
"Two, you gotta be god damned lucky for 100 years. And three: Try not to eat anything that's healthy. It's true. I eat whatever I want. The secret to longevity is ice cream."
For the first eight decades of his life, Marcus was a dedicated tennis player. Twice a week, when other retirees were taking naps after a hand of bridge, Marcus played aggressive tennis in a foursome.
"They used to call me 'the fellow who runs,' " he says.
"I was very agile for my age. Two of the others in our foursome were a couple of old fellows who stood in the middle of the court, where you don't want to be. You want to be back where you can hit the ball."
When one of the others in his foursome fell and broke his hip, Marcus, then 88, took it as a sign to hang up his racket.
"Quit while you're ahead," he says.
By then, he'd also given up downhill skiing, at his wife's strong suggestion. Marcus never has broken a bone, but his knees began complaining when he climbed the stairs or walked uphill.
When he told one of his three doctors (primary physician, cardiologist, asthma specialist) about his knee problem, he didn't get much sympathy.
"What do you expect?" he says the doctor asked. "You played tennis till you were 88! You wore out the cartilage!"
Until he was about 97, Marcus followed a morning exercise ritual, doing toe-touches and arm exercises for about half an hour a day. But he started having balance problems, and one day, his wife, Phyllis, looked at him and said, "Paul, you're bending over like an old man!"
"I told her, 'That's what I am!' but then I started working with Erin at the JCC," Marcus says.
Erin Crane, a certified fitness trainer, developed a half-hour routine that Marcus follows religiously twice a week. The exercises focus on improving balance, coordination and core strength, "which helps my posture, so I'm not leaning over anymore like an old man," Marcus says.
"But it's just as important to take care of your mind. I take two classes in the Osher Lifelong Learning program for seniors, and I've studied everything from anti-Semitism to current events. We have classes in practically every subject you can think of."
Paul Marcus' fitness regimen
This workout can be modified with the help of a personal trainer or fitness expert for any age or physical limitations. Consult with your physician if this is the first time you're starting a new routine.
Hurdles (12 inches high): Step over four hurdles placed about two feet apart, first high-stepping forward, starting with dominant leg and then nondominant leg, and then high-stepping sideways.
Modified push-ups: Marcus uses a metal bar secured about 3 feet off the floor to support his torso and push up from, but trainer Erin Crane said you can use a wall, table or kitchen counter. Do 12. Rest. Repeat.
Seated leg curls on a weight machine: Two sets of 10-12 repetitions, weights set at 60 pounds for the first set and 55 pounds for the second set.
Standing core work: Waist twist, holding the padded handle to a Bowflex or other cable machine with straight arms. Perform 10-12 repetitions in one direction; repeat in the other direction.
Seated row with two pull handles (cable machine): Two sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Knee lifts and supported squats: Two sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Medicine-ball leg lifts: Stand in place while holding a 6-pound medicine ball with both hands and lift one leg at a time, leading with the knee, to work on balance. Two sets of 10 repetitions. (Crane also suggests standing on one foot as you brush your teeth, switching feet halfway through your routine.)
Half-roller balance: Stand on foam half-roller (round side up, flat surface on floor). Two sets of knee lifts, and side-step back and forth two times. Best performed with a railing or chair nearby for support, as Marcus does.
Balance board: Position the board near a grab bar or other stable handle for help in safely mounting the board. Shift weight back and forth from foot to foot, and then stand in the middle of the board. Two minutes each.
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