Regular exercise has many benefits such as managing symptoms of pain or illness, heightening energy, and above all else, continuing to maintain your independence. Not only is it good for your body, but for your mind as well.

But it can make for quite a challenge, especially in this rugged, Maine climate. It’s easy to be discouraged or concerned with a possible fall due to the weather. Also, if you have never exercised before you may believe you are too out of shape or too old to even know where to start.

While these may seem like good reasons to take it easy or slow down, John and Thelma Alexander, of Auburn, have actually found them to be even better reasons to keep moving.

When John had a heart attack in 2011 at the age of 70, his doctor sent him to cardiac rehab at Central Maine Medical Center for 12 weeks.

“Once I finished,” he smiled. “Everyone there suggested I come to the Health and Fitness Center at CMMC to continue working out. They all explained the importance exercise has to staying healthy.”

So his wife decided to go with him!

“I had gone through breast cancer in 2009,” said Thelma. “And I was at the tail end of recuperating when he had his heart attack. We decided to work out together; it would be healthy for us, but most importantly it was a way to support each other.”

Thelma and John now are among the many seniors choosing to work out. In fact, they visit the center three days a week.

“She has always given me courage to come,” added John. “There are days I may not feel like it, but it motivates me to go when I know she wants to, then I’m so glad we did.”

“I have to admit that it is tough to get going sometimes,” added Thelma. “I have found that it really helps coming together and we come as often as possible.”

The couple, who have been married for 55 years, stroll around the gym, very comfortable and relaxed; stopping at numerous stations to lift weights, ride a bike, walk on the treadmill or say hello to a fellow exerciser.

“They have a group class every hour that we go join in on,” explained Thelma. “There are about six of us and we do light exercises together, things that help us keep our balance.”

And it doesn’t always have to be a hard work out.

“Some days I do a lot,” smiled John. “And other times I just do a little bit.”

“Either way it’s doing something,” added Thelma. “It’s important just to be here; it sure beats sitting home and watching TV or playing on the computer.”

And since then, the couple has continued their “buddy” workouts and it has become so much more than just an exercise routine. They admit they have learned that exercising has so many more benefits than the obvious flexibility, strength and balance, such as sleeping better, improved self-confidence and an overall sense of well-being.

“I’m pretty surprised we’ve done this,” laughed John. “I used to hate to exercise and now I love it. If I don’t come here, the rest of my day is done for, it really lifts my spirits.”

“It really helps pass the time away, too,” said Thelma. “It’s easy to gets down in the dumps, especially on a dreary day. And it gets the best of me if I can’t get out.”

Besides being stronger in both body and mind, the Alexanders have met many friends at the gym.

“We know everyone here,” smiled Thelma. “We get to socialize as well and if someone doesn’t come for a few days we get worried. Everyone here is like family, even the staff.”

Are they glad they made the decision to exercise together?

“Oh yes!” laughed Thelma. “What better way to get healthy, and try to stay that way than to work out with the one you love?”

“To me, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here today,” said John. “If I lost her, I’d be lost. She takes such good care of me. I come and bring her with me so she can stay healthy, too.”

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