BETHLEHEM — Alan Lobel is passionate about exercise, and now he is one step away from receiving a national award for it.
The 70-year-old town resident is one of 10 finalists for the Healthways SilverSneakers’ Richard L. Swanson Award, where people vote for their favorite senior fitness success story. Voting continues through July 15, and the winner will be revealed on SilverSneakers’ Facebook page July 18.
“I’d really love to win the whole thing,” said Lobel. “I’m in the top 10 right now, but I would love to be No. 1.”
Lobel was selected because of his ability to inspire people around him to exercise more. He recently convinced one of his friends to start using his favorite exercise machine, the Expresso Bike.
“At first, he didn’t think he could even do one mile, but he did a little more each day and now he can do a mile and a half,” said Lobel. “That’s one of the goals of a workout. You want to do a little more each day.”
“Alan is one of the most outgoing people I know, and he’s been on that Expresso Bike from Day 1,” said Kerry Engle, assistant fitness director at the Albany Jewish Community Center, where Lobel works out.
In fact, Lobel said he’s responsible for the Expresso Bike being in the fitness center.
“They were remodeling this entire weight room, and I was visiting the Rochester JCC because my in-laws live in Rochester,” said Lobel. “The (fitness) guy there said, ‘We just got these bikes in. You have to try it.’ So I did and I loved it. When I came back (to the Albany JCC), I told them they had to get these bikes.”
What Lobel likes so much about the Expresso Bike is that it features a number of different courses and keeps track of the miles he’s traveled and the calories he’s burned. To date, he’s logged nearly 14,000 miles and burned more than 650,000 calories.
“There’s 45 different routes (ranging) from 1 to 20 miles, and you can do whatever you want,” said Lobel. “On the 20-mile course, there’s four 40-degree hills.”
All of the miles he’s logged and calories he’s burned has helped Lobel maintain his primary fitness goal.
“My most important thing is that my No. 1 muscle is in very good shape, and that muscle is my heart,” said Lobel.
Lobel participates in the SilverSneakers program through CDPHP, which offers it at no cost to members. The program is designed to help seniors stay active at a level they choose.
“I think one of the misconceptions people have about health insurance is that it’s only there for when they’re sick,” said CDPHP spokesperson Ali Skinner. “What they don’t realize is that we have programs to help promote an active lifestyle. Heart disease, strokes, diabetes … all of those things can be prevented through physical activity, and it doesn’t have to be strenuous, either.”
Engle added that exercise can be a gateway for seniors to getting out and being among others.
“That’s the other thing about physical activity. It can help combat loneliness and depression,” said Engle.
Lobel has been an active member at the Albany JCC since the Whitehall Road location opened in 1961. He’s also an avid golfer, as he makes many trips to the Colonie Country Club in Voorheesville every year.
“With golf, you walk 18 holes, which is about five miles,” said Lobel. “But, I find (riding the Expresso Bike) makes me sweat a lot more.”
It’s that love of exercising that has led Lobel to being one of a select few seniors across the United States that are up for this year’s Richard L. Swanson Award.
“I’m just excited,” said Lobel. “SilverSneakers has 13,000 facilities in this country. The (Albany) JCC is one of them. To be nominated out of 13,000 facilities is amazing.”
To view all 10 of the nominees’ stories and vote, go to SilverSneakers.swansonaward.com. People can vote once a day until July 15.