For one week, I accompanied my mother-in-law to her gym. I walked on the treadmill, rowed on the rowing machine, and pumped some iron as she did the same. I met my mother-in-law’s gym friends: a couple of college professors, retired business men, and young professionals who worked out alongside my mother-in-law everyday at 6 AM.
My mother-in-law works out at her gym five days a week and then attends Mass. Not only does she build physical strength at the gym, she interacts meaningfully with more people before 8 AM than I do on most days before noon. She is sustained both physically and emotionally by the gym and its community.
A recent study has found that a greater percentage of centenarians live in North Dakota and New York City per capita than in any other location in the United States. What the study found is that people who exercise and engage in social networks live longer. They also appear to be happier. The study tells me my mother-in-law is going to live a long time because not only does she engage in social networks and exercise, she does both at the same time.
The takeaway here is not to go to the gym necessarily. The question is how will you create gym-like experiences in your own life? How will you get out there to interact with others and strengthen your body, all at once or separately?
Since I read the study, I have been asking myself if I have any chance of turning 100. I exercise and I often exercise alone. I am social and I have not cultivated the gym experience, real or metaphorical, in my life. Because I want to be 100 years old (and happy), I will consider the barriers to sociality and exercise and try to break them down in my own life.