By SARA GIBONEY
World-Herald News Service
KEARNEY — John Cochran, 92, completes a few pull-ups with ease.
A fit young man looks on and smiles.
Regular exercise, a positive attitude and humor keep Cochran fit and healthy, he said.
Cochran works out at the Kearney Family YMCA at least three times a week. He rides a stationary bike, does strength exercises and completes flexibility exercises. He recently started doing isotonic exercises to relieve the arthritis in his neck.
“It’s just a little something I came up with,” he said. “Of course, they recommend that if you have arthritis, exercise increases circulation.”
He has had to give up some weight-bearing exercises because of cartilage lost in his right shoulder, but he can still complete about eight or nine pull-ups.
“The trainers here are impressed by that,” Cochran said during an interview at the YMCA. “They say there are fellas here a third of my age who can’t do half that many, so that’s encouraging.”
Cochran began exercising regularly as a teenager delivering newspapers.
“I had a three-mile round trip to high school, uphill both ways, of course, and when I got home I would grab my paper bag and hike a mile outside of town and then, with my 52 papers, I had a five-mile hike to deliver those 52 papers,” said Cochran, who grew up in St. Joseph, Mo.
Delivering papers got Cochran interested in hiking.
“Anytime I could get to mountain country, I enjoyed hiking mountain trails,” he said.
Cochran married his wife, Averil, who is now 90, in September 1941. They have two children.
“I made a vow when I saw fellas in their 30s who were fit in high school and became overweight that I would stay active,” Cochran said.
His weight has never fluctuated more than 5 pounds, he added.
Cochran, who was a speech and hearing professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney during the 1970s and 1980s, remained active throughout his 30s and 40s by hiking and doing weight-bearing exercises at home.
“I always tried to maintain a few basic exercises at home like knee bends, standing knee lifts, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups,” Cochran said. “I always liked to walk and hike a lot.”
He began jogging in his late 40s and completed four marathons.
“Whenever I’d see an article in the paper about someone maybe in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s who had just climbed a mountain or done something vigorous, I’d clip it out and stick in the drawer,” Cochran said. “I’d think, ‘That’s the way to live.’
“I developed a real resistance against social stereotypes of when you reach 40 you’re over the hill.”
At 75, Cochran climbed Wheeler Peak in New Mexico. Wheeler Peak is 13,160 feet and the highest peak in New Mexico.
He belonged to the Royal Court for about 15 years until 2000, then joined the YMCA when he turned 80.
Cochran, who turned 92 on Feb. 7, takes no prescription medication. He takes one baby aspirin a day, he said.
“Humor is a part of my attitude keeping fit,” Cochran said. “Because humor lowers the blood pressure, lowers the heart rate, improves your digestion, lowers your stress level and so, everywhere I go I tell jokes.”
Cochran is well-known at the YMCA. Employees and members often stop to chat with him.
“I try to be an encourager here at the Y,” Cochran said.
“I find that very helpful here at the Y because most people can use a word of encouragement.”
Cochran said it’s important to help people in their 50s, 60s and 70s keep a positive attitude about exercise.
“I know it’s going to be easy for them to get discouraged if they don’t see some immediate weight loss,” he said.
Cochran believes that a positive attitude is his key to remaining fit physically.
“I’ve made a number of great acquaintances and friendships here at the Y,” Cochran said. “It’s a great place to meet people.”