Sagging gut? Not this grandfather.A bulging beer belly, thin arms and legs, and a bent back ― for some this is the “typical shape” of an elderly Korean man. But is such a spider-type figure unavoidable as one gets older?
For Lee Jeong-seok, it is most definitely avoidable. The 72-year old Mr. Lee, who works in a store, is a bodybuilder. He is not tall, at 165 centimeters (5.4 feet), but his chest measures 105 centimeters and the biceps on his arms are 40 centimeters in circumference. The chest measurement of the average adult male who doesn’t exercise is around 80 to 85 centimeters (that of elderly men is about 70 centimeters) and their biceps measure around 30 centimeters.
“When I’m holding an 80-kilogram (176.4-pound) barbell in the gym, some youngsters advise me not to overwork,” said Mr. Lee. “But then, they are startled and embarrassed after looking at my figure in the shower room.”
Mr. Lee has won the top award for five years at a bodybuilding competition for men aged 65 years or older held by the Korea Bodybuilding Federation of Sport for All. He became interested in bodybuilding 18 years ago, when he moved to Daejeon after retiring from his job in Seoul.
“I didn’t feel easy as a person over 50 years of age standing in front of other people wearing only palm-size underwear,” Mr. Lee recalled. But the director of his gym continually pushed him, and so finally Mr. Lee participated in a competition. He said he gained a lot more confidence after winning the top prize.
Mr. Lee exercises for two hours every day except Sundays, and says working out has now become a major part of his life.
He wakes up at 6 a.m., gets to the store by 7 and is then on his feet for 12 hours serving customers until 7 p.m. After finishing work, he goes to the gym and works out from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., finally going to bed at around midnight. His daily schedule is so tight that even younger people would find it difficult ― but Mr. Lee says he doesn’t feel any fatigue. What’s more, he hasn’t been afflicted by conditions of old age such as lumbago or arthritis, and hasn’t even come down with a cold since he started working out.
Since he hasn’t felt the need to go in for a regular health checkup, he doesn’t even know how high (or low) his blood pressure is.
With regard to his body, he’s most proud of his chest and biceps. But his exercises these days concentrate on his upper and lower abdominal muscles.
“As I get older, my belly starts to droop, even if I neglect working out just a couple of times. Therefore, I only do exercises for my abdominal muscles for the last 30 minutes of my workout,” Mr. Lee explained. “I do sit-ups for both upper and lower abdominals and lift my legs while lying on a mat ― the total repetitions amount to 1,000.”
Mr. Lee emphasized that a person can live young if they exercise ― if the body gets old, the mind also ages. He doesn’t go to places where elderly people congregate and doesn’t try to make friends of his own age. He wears jeans and caps, goes out to dinner with younger friends, and often visits a noraebang (karaoke).
“Diabetes and high blood pressure are diseases that one gets by eating too well and living too comfortable a life,” Mr. Lee said. “Even though you live a long life, if you’re sick, isn’t it miserable for your family as well as yourself? I will keep exercising as long as my body allows it.”
by Ko Jong-kwon