James “Jimi” Lewis isn’t your average 75-year-old.
For more than 60 years, he’s been competing, performing, and teaching figure skating, while simultaneously knocking out both racist and ageist stereotypes.
Lewis, a Philadelphia native, fell in love with skating the moment he stepped on the ice, at the age of 11. “I went to work one day with my uncle who worked at the Philadelphia ice skating rink, which was located at 46th and Market, next to the old Band Stand. There I saw an ice show of Peter Pan, and when Peter flew over the audience on a guide wire, I was hooked,” Lewis recalls. It was at that moment, he decided to become a skater.
About a week after that performance, Lewis hit the ice and has never looked backed. “Within a couple of months, I was doing spins and leaps,” he said. He also quickly discovered that he had a knack for teaching others, and to this very day, he teaches young and old students how to figure skate.
Lewis has taught at University of Pennsylvania, Haverford Township rinks, and was the first skate instructor at the Laura Sims Skate House in Cobbs Creek, where he has taught for 35 years.
In addition to skating, Mr. Jimi (as he is affectionately known), is also an accomplished visual artist and graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, an actor, composer, choreographer, and a chef.
Does he plan on slowing down? “Noooo,” he said. “I’ll always skate for as long as I live. They’re going to have to bury me under the ice,” he chucked.
Still skating well at 75, Lewis said, “you can learn to skate, and skate well, at any age. One of my adult students, a 60-year-old mother, became a state champion, and another, a 70 year old retired engineer practiced diligently and literally gave himself a new lease on life.”
While probably not commonly thought of as exercise, did you know that ice skating is a whole-body exercise like swimming, and a fun activity for all ages and abilities? Recreational ice skating offers variety of health benefits and it’s also just plain fun. If you need more convincing, here are seven more reasons to drag yourself out of your house and go skating:
- Cardiovascular: Skating offers great heart-pumping cardiovascular exerciser, and burns between 300 to 600 calories per hour, based on intensity.
- Builds amazing gams: Skating is a great tush toner and great for shaping and toning your gorgeous gams, too.
- Balance: Skating is the ultimate in balance training, and it will simultaneously strengthen your core muscles as you glide on the ice.
- Flexibility: Along with improved circulation, skating will gently improve your joint flexibility.
- Endurance: Slowly and steadily, the longer you’re on the ice, the more you’ll gently build up your endurance.
- Stress buster: As you’re gliding across the ice, your endorphins will kick in and make you feel terrific! You’ll be exercising, having fun, and melting away the stress.
- Weight loss: In addition to all of the great fun you’ll have skating, you’ll be torching calories, improving your muscle tone, and likely shedding a few pounds, too. Does it get any better?
Actually, it does get better, because skating is an activity the whole family can participate in, enjoy, and get fit together.