Sy Perlis, a 91-year-old Arizona resident, set a new world record Saturday at the National Push-Pull Bench Press and Dead Lift Championships, hoisting a 187.2-pound weight over his chest.
The World War II veteran dominated the 85-to-90 age group before transitioning into the 90-and-over class, breaking an association record of 135 pounds that had been in place since 2005
, according to the USA Today.
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Perlis didn't start lifting until he was 60. He entered his first championship competition five years ago
, winning the state title in 2009 and the world title in 2010 and 2011 in the 181-pound weight category for the 85- to 89-year olds division.
“It gave me the opportunity to do something to test myself for one thing, and I didn’t have to run around to do it, as you would in some other sports,” Perlis told the Arizona Republic of weightlifting. "I got a lot of satisfaction out of it, and it made me feel good, and it was good for me."
Despite his successes, Perlis has had his share of setbacks. Last year, the seasoned champion was unable to compete after he got surgery to fix a hernia. At the time, he got a pacemaker. He might have also fractured his wrist, but when he visited the doctor five weeks after receiving the injury, he was diagnosed with acute arthritis.
Reid Solar, Perlis' trainer, said the 91-year-old's weightlifting hobby might have been a factor in the injuries, but it's difficult to pinpoint the cause of health issues for older athletes.
Still, Perlis is living proof that senior citizens can compete athletically and be in better shape than younger crowds.
"We've had a lot of lifters in their middle 80s, late 80s and occasionally we get one 90 and over, but they've never inspired people (like Perlis has)," association president and event organizer Gus Rethwisch told the USA Today.
Research shows that exercise reduces the likelihood a person will develop a chronic disease
, and for people who already have diseases, staying active can improve symptoms.
"The risk of leading a sedentary lifestyle is much greater
than anything related to exercise," Chhanda Dutta, chief of the Clinical Gerontology Branch of the National Institute on Aging, told the USA Today. "I think it's important for people to realize that age alone doesn't determine the intensity of your workout."
Perlis is one of three active lifters in the 90-and-older age category and the only one to compete Saturday.
Usually, competitors are allowed only a total of three lifts, four if they are trying to break a world record. On Saturday, Perlis was granted permission to do five.
His record lifts this past weekend qualify him for the world championship in Reno in November.
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