Drinking and smoking were never among his vices, but McDonald W. “Don” Held Sr. readily acknowledges some weaknesses.
He indulges daily in English toffee ice cream bars, enjoys ice-cold Dr. Pepper and lightly salted Lay’s potato chips.
The 103-year-old can afford to satisfy his sweet tooth because of his thrice-weekly workouts at the Billings Family YMCA. He joined the health and fitness club more than three decades ago. Thirty-minute water aerobics sessions, followed by a five-minute soak in the hot tub, are a staple of his exercise regimen.
“If I didn’t do something to keep going, I wouldn’t be able to do much,” Held said. “The reason I go is that it helps keep me moving.”
He has some arthritis in his right shoulder and relies on a cane for mobility, but considers them minor inconveniences. He was one of 87 World War II veterans who traveled to Washington, D.C., in September as part of the Big Sky Honor Flight. He showed no signs of wear and tear on the two-day, jam-packed sightseeing tour of the capital.
“I do fairly well,” he said. “I’ve led a pretty healthy lifestyle all of my life. I also have good genes.”
His sister died one week shy of her 101st birthday.
Keeping pace with Held means 6:30 a.m. workouts each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. At 5 feet, 6 inches, Held weighs in at a lean 152 pounds.
Held turned 103 this month. Another YMCA regular, Barney Myers, celebrated his 102nd birthday in September. To commemorate their respective milestones, the YMCA honored the pair Friday with a birthday cake.
“The YMCA is so proud to have two members with such health and longevity,” said Tina Postel, CEO of the Billings Family YMCA. “Barney and Mac’s milestone birthdays make a profound statement about how important it is to take care of yourself, and I am happy to celebrate with them. Their presence at the Y is a true representation of our service to all ages and all fitness abilities.”
Myers works out for about an hour at least three times each week immediately after breakfast.
“Sometimes I go one or two extra times,” Myers said. “That’s optional.”
As a warm-up exercise, he will occasionally make the two-mile round-trip trek from his home to the YMCA on foot. At his retirement home, he often takes the stairs to his seventh-floor apartment.
“I eat anything that’s served,” he said. “I eat hearty. I’ve just learned over the years that you have to work it off or it will all turn to blubber. I work it off.”
At 5 feet, 10 inches, Myers weighs in at a svelte 154.8 pounds.
While Myers is certain that his exercise regimen has helped extend his life, he does not believe it is the sole reason.
“You have to be lucky, too,” Myers said. “Besides that, I just take one day at a time and don’t worry about it.”
Held and Myers are unwittingly part of a growing nationwide trend, according to UnitedHealthcare’s seventh annual 100@100 survey released earlier this year. The survey conducted by UnitedHealthcare recently reviewed the activity levels of its 12,000 over-100 members. From the data, researchers found more than half of centenarians work out each day.
Most centenarians say they exercise almost every day. Walking is their favorite physical activity, but exercises to build muscle are almost as popular among those 100 years old and older, according to the survey.
The survey finds the nation’s centenarians are just as active — physically and socially — as the boomers half their age.
That comes as no surprise to Held.
“If I didn’t go,” Held said, “I’d shrivel up.”