Five days a week, without fail, the three men meet at 3 p.m. at the Aquatic & Fitness Center in Jenkintown and exercise for about two hours. They have been working out together for at least 15 years.

Jay Blumenthal, 80, is an insurance broker who lives in Holland, Bucks County. Len Michaels, 78, is a retired CPA in Huntingdon Valley. Bernie Kauderer, 80, is an optometrist who also lives in Huntingdon Valley. They have become gym buddies and fitness friends.

"If I didn't have friends to do it with, I probably wouldn't do it with the same consistency," says Blumenthal. "I'm there because the other guys are there. They depend on you. They make it more desirable to do it."

The routine is this: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they work out with weights. Tuesday and Thursday, they lift lighter weights and devote about 45 minutes to aerobic exercise on a treadmill, elliptical cross- trainer, or stationary bike.

Every day begins with a fair amount of kibitzing. That's followed by stretching on the mat and warmups on the elliptical trainer and leg-press machine. On days reserved primarily for resistance exercise, they work out with free weights and on weight machines. They do bench presses with progressively heavier loads - 65 pounds, 75 pounds, 85 pounds. On the machines, they do various exercises for the chest, back, and shoulders, such as lat pulldowns. They do curls for the biceps, leg extensions for the knees, sit-ups for the abdominal muscles.

"We hit all the major muscle groups," says Michaels.

On aerobic days, they still do some resistance exercise on the machines, but the loads are lighter. Besides boosting heart rates on the treadmill, elliptical cross-trainer, and stationary bike, they also try to do balancing exercises on a triangular piece of foam. The aim: to develop the agility and coordination to prevent a ruinous, bone-breaking fall.

They are not bodybuilders or physioculturists. They are merely trying to maintain what they have. Their workouts are social, leisurely. Generally, two of them will watch or spot while the other is performing. There is plenty of time to gab and joke and enjoy one another's company.

On aerobic days, when the weather is fair, they'll meet at the gym and drive to nearby Alverthorpe Park in Abington. There, they'll walk the bike path, briskly. It's 1.7 miles, and they do two laps, or 3.4 miles total.

Their devotion to fitness has paid off. All of them are healthy, free of injury and disease.

Blumenthal, who grew up in Cheltenham, weighs 152 pounds, only 15 more than he did when he played tennis at Cheltenham High School. "I take no medication. I can eat anything I want. I never have to worry about my weight.

"I see guys there working with trainers who have all kinds of physical difficulties.

I say a prayer every night that I'm able to do this kind of stuff. When you don't have any aches or pains at age 80, it's pretty remarkable.

"I think the fact I've been doing this for so many years has definitely had an effect on my health. I never smoked, and rarely drink, and that, too, has a bearing on it. I've never had an operation or serious illness."

Michaels grew up in the Tacony section of Philadelphia, played intramural handball at Pennsylvania State University, and later became a fervent racquetball player. When he graduated from college, he weighed 155 pounds. He now weighs 172. His can fit into trousers with a 33-inch waist, and he's proud of his flat abdomen.

"It's those sit-ups," says Michaels, whose current occupation is digitally enhanced photography, "and my wife is a good cook, and I eat a healthy diet."

His philosophy of fitness: "You got to do it every day, not only for strength and to build yourself up - though we're now in the maintenance stage - but mentally, it makes you feel better. You're sharper. You don't get as tired, and you have more energy. It's an essential part of life, no question about it. Sometimes, you have to push yourself a little, but we know we have to do it. It has to be a regular thing."

Kauderer, who still works as an optometrist in Willow Grove, offers this advice:

"Don't do it one or two days a week and forget about it. Consistency is the most important thing. I see people at the gym who weigh 350 pounds. They're there one week, and then you don't see them again.

"With us, there's a good bit of camaraderie that makes everything go faster and mean more. If you exercise alone, it's harder to stick to it. When the three of us exercise together, it makes it more enjoyable, easier, and something to look forward to."

 

"Well Being" appears every other week (www.philly.com/wellbeing), alternating with Sandy Bauers' "GreenSpace" column.