Betty Erickson works out 45 minutes a day seven days a week, saying the exercise has helped her stay independent. “Everyone is in a bit of awe,” says the gym owner.

Share story

MOUNT VERNON — As Betty Erickson, who turned 100 in July, sat down at a leg-curl machine at Urban Fitness, she got a few smiles from gym patrons.

“Hey, Betty,” said a woman sitting nearby on Tuesday.

Erickson smiled before adjusting the machine’s resistance and starting her workout.

Erickson is a bit of a celebrity at the gym she’s attended for 20 years. She’s an inspiration, said owner Joy Shamburger.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

“It’s pretty motivating that she works out,” Shamburger said. “Everyone is in a bit of awe. She is a legend around here. She doesn’t know that, but she’s a legend.”

Erickson works out 45 minutes a day seven days a week. She spends 30 minutes on a treadmill and 15 on strength training.

And while Erickson said, “It’s nothing vigorous,” she said the workouts have helped her stay independent. That’s one thing for which she’s always been grateful.

“Still having my independence motivates me,” Erickson said. “My youngsters say I’m stubborn and strong-minded for going, but I think it’s my fear of being dependent.”

Erickson moved from Yakima to Mount Vernon in 1989, six years after her husband died. She lives by herself in a condo.

Her four children live in the state, but she mostly does things on her own, including driving to the gym.

When Erickson started at the gym 20 years ago, she had joint pain in her knees. She said the pain is gone thanks to strength exercises on the leg curl machine.

Her good fitness also helped her avoid serious injury when she fell at the age of 94, Shamburger said.

“Normally at that age, if you fall and break something, you are pretty much done,” Shamburger said. “Betty was so strong that she was back in the gym after a couple weeks.”

Erickson’s biggest obstacle came in 2014, when she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had to take a year off from the gym. She said her heart doesn’t “pump as well as it used to.”

She was bedridden in a hospital for much of her recovery, then moved back into her condo where one of her children came to take care of her.

Cherishing her independence, Erickson worked hard to get back on her feet. She didn’t want to inconvenience her family — four children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren — too long.

“I had to learn to walk all over again,” Erickson said. “It’s amazing how fast you lose your muscles when you are not moving.”

She came back to Urban Fitness in 2015, a year after her diagnosis, and has been building her strength back up ever since.

Erickson said while working out has helped her maintain her lifestyle, she said what works for her might not work for others.

“It’s so individual and so personal,” she said. “What applies to me doesn’t necessarily apply to someone else. If I gave advice, I’d say start when you are still able to move around well and stick with it. Once you break the rhythm, it’s awfully easy to give it up.”

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.