SPINNING–Von Atkinson of St. Louis incorporates a couple of spin classes into his weekly exercise regime. Since July, he has lost nearly 50 pounds, was taken off blood pressure medicine and has reduced his risk of type 2 diabetes. (St. Louis American Photo/Wiley Price)


by Sandra Jordan
For New Pittsburgh Courier

(–Von Atkinson was surprised when his eye doctor changed his eyeglasses to a weaker prescription. Losing 50 pounds in five months reduced the pressure on his eyes. That was a bonus, because a few months earlier, Atkinson was shocked into the gym when his doctor told him he was a borderline diabetic.

“The doctor told me, ‘Now you need to lose weight; your blood pressure is rising a little bit.’ And he said I was borderline diabetic,” Atkinson recounted. “I said, ‘No, I can’t deal with that; taking pills or shots,’ so he said just watch what you eat and do a little more physical activity.”

That was the push he needed to get serious about regular exercise.

Rather than trying to go solo at his former fitness center, Atkinson found the camaraderie of group classes at a new club was the incentive he needed to keep coming back.

“When I first started, I said you’ve got to be crazy to think I could do this type of stuff,” Atkinson said. “They do want you to go to the best of your abilities … but they don’t want you to hurt yourself, but he doesn’t want you to be lazy.”

What really encouraged him was seeing old-timers getting it done.

“I could see some other people that I knew was older than myself; middle-age or older than a lot of the people there. And some of the people who are much larger lost weight and are losing weight,” he explained. “I said if they can do this stuff, I can too.”

Another key to his success was finding the right gymnasium to suit his personality. Although he held a membership to a gym in Clayton, Mo., Atkinson said it was the “good energy” he felt at BKM, his old friend’s gym in Florissant, Mo. that kept him motivated to continue.

“I was kind of reluctant, but I decided to give it a try and here I am. I love it,” Atkinson said. “It’s fun now. It’s not a job.”

Then Atkinson started to notice he wasn’t feeling as good. He was feeling weak because his blood pressure started dropping too low.

Because of his weight loss, Atkinson’s doctor decided the medicine was taking to control his blood pressure was no longer needed.

“I haven’t been on blood pressure pills since the first of September; last of August,” he said, which means incorporating activity quickly improved his blood pressure in about six weeks.

He had been taking HBP meds since he was 47. Now 53, and on-track health-wise, Atkinson takes no medication.

Atkinson’s weekly workout includes an hour of exercises like jumping jacks, leg lifts, kettle bells, squats, and chair exercises five or six days a week. In October, he added one hour of spin classes twice a week.

“My goal when I came to the gym, I was 247pounds and I said I wanted to get down to 200,” he said. “I’m at 197.”

At 6 feet 2 inches tall, Atkinson said people are telling him he looks just right. He plans on maintaining his weight and his exercise. He just doesn’t want that “Bobble head” look.

“My doctor is very happy where I am,” he said. “My clothes fit much better and I have to take some things to the tailor. I used to be 40 in the waist; I’m down to a 36 now.”

He said the older people are telling him not to lose too much weight – because if he gets sick, he’s going to “need something.”

Being sick is the furthest thought in Atkinson’s mind these days.

“Now I feel like I am 21 again,” Atkinson admits.

Although still a couple of weeks away from his next glucose testing, he expects his blood sugar will be in the normal range.

Reprinted from the St. Louis American

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