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Herald Neighbors

East Rockaway couple stays young and fit with walking ritual

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With her arms rapidly pumping back and forth by her side, hands in fists, Subhadra Shah, 80, picked up speed, as she walked down her block, with her husband, Anirudh Shah, 85, following closely behind her, in a similar way.

It is a site that can be seen daily, as the couple, married for 65 years, habitually walks down Waverly Avenue from their home to the Central Avenue Long Island Rail Road station. Then, their route takes them to Lynbrook High School and back to their home. After they complete their walk, they repeat it once more. In total, they stride for 5.4 miles.

“It started as exercise, now it’s an addiction,” Subhadra said with a smile. “Walking is our secret to living a long, healthy life and staying together.”

Each day, for the past 30 years, the Shahs have walked in East Rockaway. As a way to exercise, increase health benefits, decrease aging and connect with each other, the couple walks 10,000 steps per day from about 8 to 9:30 a.m. They rarely miss a day of walking because whenever it is raining, too hot, or snowing, they take laps in their house.

Anirudh said walking has improved his health in many ways and he recommends walking to anyone who has health problems like diabetes and high cholesterol — both of which he has.

“My diabetes and high cholesterol haven’t affected me as much as they could have because of my walking,” he said. “My walking habits kept me from having a heart attack.”

In July 2018, Anirudh underwent triple bypass surgery because of the hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels and coronary arteries in his heart. All three major arteries in his heart had to be bypassed because of the aging of his body. However, his health condition didn’t progress into a heart attack because of his walking habits before and during the time his blood vessels hardened. 

The Shah’s grandson, Vivek Shah, said exercise has become a daily part of his life because his grandparents walking habits have encouraged him. Vivek has been exercising for three years by participating in about an hour to an hour and a half of cardiovascular exercises four to five times per week.

“Walking runs in the family,” said Vivek. “My grandparents are an inspiration. Their walking habits have trickled down to me.” 

Each May, Nassau County hosts a 10-kilometer walk, which the Shahs have participated in for three years. Anju Jhawar, 48, of Syosset, said she noticed the Shah’s walking habits over 13 years of knowing them, and it inspired her to walk more.

“Mr. and Mrs. Shah are fit as ever,” she said. “Even though they are significantly older than me, I have to work to keep up with them when walking.”  

Their walking has also impacted Ellen Keller, who lives next door to the Shahs and has known them for about 20 years. Keller is also a walker, who does a similar walking route as the Shahs. She said the Shahs’ walking habits have greatly inspired her to walk and stay in shape. 

“The Shahs are very diligent and elderly, but they are very active,” said Keller, who also noted that her doctor said walking is the most beneficial thing senior citizens can do, if they can’t lift weights or use the cardiovascular machines at the gym. “I think that the Shahs walking habits are a wonderful, wonderful thing.”