Active lifestyle keeps Jackson mentally and physically spry

Published 10:00 pm Friday, August 26, 2016

Sheila Jackson with husband Jim, on the NU STEP rowing/leg machine at Tryon Health and Fitness Club. (Photos by Mark Schmerling)

Sheila Jackson with husband Jim, on the NU STEP rowing/leg machine at Tryon Health and Fitness Club. (Photos by Mark Schmerling)

TRYON – Tryon native Jim Jackson has led what some might consider a whirlwind life. 

The 92-year-old’s resume includes World War II military service (where he “realized how silly war is”), civil rights work, helping low-income individuals, his 86 years of playing bridge (highly skillfully, with some 5,500 lifetime master points), working on Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign, hitchhiking (his thumb is still a familiar sight around Tryon), and community chorus. On top of that, he has a physical fitness routine that Jackson credits with keeping him healthy — from his busy brain to his legs.

Four times a week, Jackson takes his place on a NU STEP combination leg/rowing machine at Tryon Health and Fitness, and performs his routine for about 15 minutes to half an hour.

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Some of Jackson’s recent routines were performed with either Lily Quinn or Brian Durbin of Tryon Health and Fitness on duty. They’re pleased to have him there, keeping himself fit and healthy.

While Jackson is eager to perform his routine, that activity was actually the brainchild of his wife Sheila.

“I thought it would be good for his legs,” Sheila Jackson said. She got him to level six, and just this week, to level seven. She explained that this routine helps keep his legs strong, allowing him to continue walking, and to continue hitchhiking, where he enjoys the people he meets along the way.

Regarding the exercise routine, he says he feels that it’s helpful to his legs. “He’s still walking,” Sheila emphasized. “Maybe he’ll get to level ten.

Jackson also keeps winning at bridge, something he credits to his fitness routine, as exercise has been proven to aid cognitive thinking. “I’m not particularly conscious of it helping the brain, but I guess it does,” he said.

Why is Jackson utilizing this particular machine?

“Because I told him it looked like the best for his legs and arms,” Sheila replied.

Jackson, a quick study, began this routine early this year around March, Sheila noted. He stays on the machine until he’s completed 1,000 revolutions, sometimes playfully adding one more for emphasis.

Recently, near the end of a day when he’d eaten nothing since breakfast, he announced, “Five hundred, Sheila. Is that enough?”

“No,” was the predictable response. Jackson continued until he’d completed the requisite 1,000.

“Maybe he’ll get to level 10,” Sheila said.

While Jackson said he does not seek out, or try to avoid, any particular foods, he emphasizes that he doesn’t smoke or drink. “I’ve yet to take my first drink or my first smoke,” he said.

Of smoking, “My parents said it would stunt my growth. That was a convincing argument to me,” said Jackson, who once hoped to reach 7 feet in height, but whose frame stopped at 6 feet 3 inches.

Two things are certain: Jim Jackson will continue using his busy brain to help people, and his exercise routine will continue to nourish that brain.