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The Dart: Fit for life

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Natchez resident Jewel Byrd, 74, engages in cardio exercises and weightlifting almost every day. Byrd said he just wants to stay in shape and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

NATCHEZ — If you want to walk a mile in 74-year-old Jewel Byrd’s shoes, you better make sure you are in good shape.

Since moving to Natchez in late July, Byrd has made it a habit to get up at 4 a.m. six days a week, and walk five to six miles down along the riverfront.

“It’s really good for your health, and I like to try and always do something,” he said. “At my age, if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Byrd said he uses his Bowflex 30 minutes a day, three times a week since 2008.

And when The Dart landed on Ashburn Street in Natchez, Byrd was doing his best to rest from his walk and prepare for the next one.

Byrd said he began his walking regimen after he served 20 years in the U.S. Army.

“I was looking to stay in shape,” he said. “And what’s a better way than getting out and walking.”

Even at the age of 74, Byrd said he hasn’t lost a step when it comes to making a good pace on his walk.

“When I start my walk it is dark outside, and when I finish it is dark outside,” he said. “I can do my five miles in about an hour and 15 minutes.”

With the summer heat in Natchez making things difficult for those exercising outdoors, Byrd said he can’t wait for cooler weather to get here so he can take his walks later in the day.

“I am from Mississippi, so the heat really isn’t anything new to me,” he said. “It’s just a lot nicer to not have to worry about waking up so early to get a walk in.”

Byrd said he also likes to keep the rest of his body in shape every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the comfort of his home gym.

“I use the Bowflex 30 minutes a day, three times a week, and I have been doing that since I got it in 2008,” he said. “Me and my son like to just work out together so he can get big, and I can just stay in shape.”

With a week full of routine exercise, Byrd said he always takes Saturday off to attend his church in Pike County and rest.

“I go every Saturday, and I have been for years,” he said. “They also have a school at the church, and since school just started back I have been helping the teachers with the kids during the week.”

Byrd said he enjoys giving back to the school, and he is about to start helping build the students a new facility for their classes.

“It just feels good to help them out,” she said. “Just being able to help provide something for someone feels good.”

Byrd said he can’t wait to start on the school, but until then he will continue his daily walking routine to stay and shape and keep up with the students.