At 94 and 96, Terre Haute sisters still exercise every week

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — Twenty minutes of treadmill.

Twenty minutes on a stepper.

And 20 minutes of arm cranks.

Add in some exercise bike at home.

Twice a week, every week.

Those are important prescriptions for two sisters in their 90s who credit their good health to their regular workouts.

Wanda Morris, 94, and Wilma Heady, 96, usually work out together at the cardio rehab unit at Union Hospital. The exercise, they both agree, has kept them active and in better shape physically and mentally than if they had slowed down as they got older.

“It keeps you moving,” Morris said on Thursday during a brief break from the treadmill. “I just enjoy it.”

The sisters grew up on their family’s farm near Riley, and they recall working hard to help their father and brothers with milking the cows and other chores around the farm.

“We were farm girls and I loved gardening, so I’ve always been active,” said Morris.

In fact, she still lives on the farm that has been in her family since 1885.

Like her younger sister, Heady also enjoyed gardening as a hobby until a few years ago.

They both said they were never much for intentionally exercising until they experienced some health concerns.

Morris had a heart attack in 2008 and had three stents placed in her heart. As part of her recovery, her doctor sent her to the 12-week cardiac rehab program. And that began her experience with regular workouts.

“You get to know a lot of people,” Morris said of the others using the equipment in the rehab area. “I’m just surprised there’s not as many women here, because they can benefit from it.”

After her initial 12 weeks, Morris moved into “maintenance” status for heart patients who want to continue their workouts.

It was Morris who talked her older sister into getting on the treadmills.

Heady developed a heart valve issue about four years ago that resulted in her doctor sending her to cardiac rehab, too. And her sister’s encouragement helped get her moving.

“She talked me into it because she had been going so long,” Heady said. “At 96 years old, you need some exercise. Otherwise, I’d be sitting in the house with nothing to do.”

Heady said she had an exercise bike at home, but she didn’t care to use it because she was alone.

The fellowship with other patients at the rehab center is one reason Heady likes going.

Both sisters have also learned that they recover faster from other ailments due to their cardiac regimen.

Two months ago, Heady had 10 inches of her colon removed after her doctor found a mass in her colon. She not only survived the procedure, she was able to return to regular exercise just a few weeks later, even though she took it slow for a while.

“I blame it on prayer and exercise,” Heady said of her quick recovery. “I really believe the exercise had something to do with it.”

Four years ago, Morris had hip replacement surgery and missed three months of exercising. But she returned to her weekly treadmill trips as soon as she was able.

The sisters credit their longevity in part to the exercise, and in part to their family history. Their grandmother lived to age 92. Their father was 89 when he died, and their brother recently died at age 94.

The sisters are not the most veteran exercisers at Union’s cardio rehab unit.

Carla Reinoehl, registered nurse supervisor for cardiac rehab said one retired teacher has been a regular for 25 years.

“It’s a social thing,” Reinoehl said. “It’s not just the exercise.”

Mondays through Thursdays, from 50 to 75 patients use the rehab center. About 30 to 45 are patients in the 12-week rehab program, while 20 to 30 are maintaining their heart fitness.

The sisters are well-known to the staff, Reinoehl said, and they are inspiring in their dedication.

“Wanda did so well with her recovery from hip replacement,” Reinoehl said, “and Wilma was amazing she was back so quickly.”

Terre Haute Regional Hospital also has its own cardiopulmonary rehab program, which is open five days a week and has programs for both patients coming off surgeries and for those wishing to maintain their good health afterward.

For overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends moderate exercise weekly for all people, including senior citizens.


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