Huron Township man, 90, pedals way to good health

Mike Gebelle is celebrated his 90th birthday Monday in a place he credits with prolonging his life.
Brandi Barhite
Jul 31, 2013
“It is the best thing in my life, coming here,” the Huron Township resident said. “I will keep going as long as I can.”
 
Gebelle joined Health & Strength Gym in Sandusky in 1999, when it was World Gym and then became Blake’s Gym.  Every morning, Gebelle is a fixture at the Sandusky Plaza facility. He once stayed for eight hours, and his wife, Mary, didn’t even mind — likely because they’ve been married 62 years. “I am getting a little older, so once in a while I take a day off,” he said. “But I am here five to six days per week.”
 
He isn’t just talking to the ladies either, although he is known for kissing and hugging them. “I do all the machines. I monkey around with the weights and I am a spinner,” Gebelle said. “I love it. I can keep up. The music gets you motivated. You stand up, you sit down.”
 
Gebelle has always been active. He got plenty of exercise at Huron High School, where he played football on a six-man team. As an adult he was a laborer, retiring from the Huron Ore Docks in 1986. “I was in shape by working then and I was riding my bike all the time outside,” he said. “I would get up in the morning and go riding.”
 
Gyms were not common when he retired. When he joined in 1999, he was out of shape and overweight. “When I first started working out, I wasn’t really good at it,” Gebelle said. But he stuck with it. In three months, he lost 50 pounds and dropped under 170 pounds.
 
While he has let a few pounds sneak back on, Gebelle is happy these days at 182 pounds.
 
He enjoyed the cake and festivities the gym owner had for him Monday, when the gym celebrated his birthday a day early so his spinning friends could attend. “He is an inspiration to a lot of people — 90 years old and spinning? That is amazing,” said Don Bozicevich. “He goes at his own pace and he always finishes. If people see Mike doing it and he is here every day, there is no excuse.”
 
Jason Strong, a licensed physical therapist and geriatric specialist at Fisher-Titus, said about three-fourths of the older population do not exercise at the recommended levels. For older people, exercise helps maintain or improve an independent lifestyle and ease of everyday activities. This, of course, can help people stay out of nursing homes. Regular exercise will also improve arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and heart disease, Strong said.
 
Gebelle said he has had only few health problems. Four years ago, doctors put two stints into his heart, and he also had shingles in his right eye. He always returns to the gym. “It’s easy to quit, but I know that I have to come if I want to stay with the program,” Gebelle said. Far too many people are overweight nowadays because they don’t set goals, Gebelle said.
 
His motivation was his wardrobe. His jacket size was 42 and his waist was 36. When it crept up to 48 and 42, he knew he had to change his lifestyle.
 
Vegetables have become a big part of his diet. “I stayed away from meat for years,” he said. “I like fish ... cod fish, salmon.” He doesn’t mind splurging once in a while. He loves deep-fried perch — and he also loves working it off at Health & Strength the next morning.
 
“I would never leave here or go anywhere else,” he said. “The gym is my life. I love it.”
 
The other gym members never hesitate to give him props, either. “He is such a sweetheart. I love him to death,” Brenda Rice said. “He is our motivation. Any day you think you don’t want to come to the gym, if Mike can come, you can come.”
 
Regular exercise helps:
•     Increase strength, flexibility, balance and coordination
•     Improve arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and heart disease
•     Decrease fall risk, stress, depression and obesity 
 
What precautions should be taken?
•     People with chronic conditions should consult a physician before starting a program.
•     Stop exercising if you experience any pain. If any dizziness, fainting, chest pain or nausea occurs, stop and seek medical attention.
•     Start any program slowly to avoid overexertion.
•     Start exercising with friends for encouragement and and to watch out for each other. 
Source: Jason Strong, Fisher-Titus Medical Center physical therapist and geriatric specialist