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Her Secret to Living to 100? Keep Moving

Wisdom often comes with longevity, as Toni Stahl proves.

As she prepares to celebrate her 100th birthday, Mrs. Stahl credits a positive attitude, See’s dark chocolate, an occasional sip of alcohol – and her favorite activity, working out three times a week at a local fitness studio.

“That’s part of my life,” she says. “I like that work. I’ve always been one to do as much as I could to keep active. It loosens up all my stiffness. It keeps me going. At 99, I can move around real well.”

Mrs. Stahl, above left last year, still lives on her own, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where she and her husband farmed and raised three children. She goes to Live Active 50 Plus Fitness three times a week with her daughter and son-in-law.

Mrs. Stahl is about to join an exclusive but growing group. The United Nations estimates 316,000 people around the world are 100 or older. Scientists say that, among babies born nowadays, reaching that milestone will become common, as healthcare continues improving.

There for a day of ‘infamy’

Mrs. Stahl was born in Pensacola, one of six children. Her Navy father died when she and her siblings were young, and she married a Navy man herself at 17.

In December 1941, her husband was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was out to sea when Japanese forces attacked, killing some 2,400 Americans and drawing the country into World War II.

Mrs. Stahl was there, though, home alone with her baby daughter. The loud explosions and chaos were frightening.

“We didn’t know what it was until it came over the radio,” she recalls. “We had to stay in the house. This went on for several days. We weren’t prepared for anything like that.”

She eventually learned that her husband had not been in harm’s way. She and baby Sandra were evacuated with other military families to California.

She eventually remarried, and spent most of her life in Kentucky.

“She’s part of that amazing generation,” says daughter Sandra Laughlin, 79, pictured above with her mother. “They went through so much. They did what they had to do, and they didn’t moan and grown. She never used it as a reason to not put one foot in front of the other and do what you had to do.”

She enjoyed water skiing and the physical demands of farming throughout her adulthood. Mrs. Stahl continued working and volunteering at a local hospital until she was 97 – and she didn’t want to stop even then.

The physical, mental and social benefits of exercise

Mrs. Stahl enjoys her friendships at Live Active while she works on balance and mobility in the classes. It’s good for her cognitive skills, too, because she has to pay attention and follow instructions.

Sandra enjoys spin class at Live Active, and her husband, 92, lifts weights there. Sandra says it has helped Bill battle the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

“The trainers are great and trained in functional aging,” Sandra says. “It’s not competitive – you can work as hard as you want to. There’s a lot of laughter and fun.”

That’s important to her mom as she heads to her 100th birthday.

“I do as I feel, and I like to stay active and be around people,” Mrs. Stahl says. “I still want to keep moving. If I sat down, I think I’d just give up.”

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