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Henry Tseng, who exercised every day at age 111, dies

Henry Tseng, who exercised every day at age 111, dies
Henry Tseng works out at the Collins & Katz Family YMCA in 2018. (Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

Every day at 3 p.m., Henry Tseng arrived at a gym on the Westside for his daily workout — not an unusual sight in Los Angeles, except Tseng was 111.

Tseng’s passion for physical fitness made him something of a local celebrity at the Collins & Katz Family YMCA in Sawtelle, where he had been a member for more than 40 years.

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In his 80s, Tseng was doing yoga headstands. He showed up for a 6:30 a.m. dance aerobics class well into his 90s. And in his 12th decade, he still lifted himself out of his wheelchair and onto a recumbent exercise bike for a half-hour ride every afternoon.

“The older you are, the more you need exercise,” Tseng told The Times last year. He didn’t feel old, he said, and did not count his years.

Tseng exercised until the day before he died on Feb. 27 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He was 111 and 231 days, his family said. At the time of his death, he was believed to be the oldest man in the United States.

He ate in moderation, took a multivitamin, and stayed away from alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. But the true secret to longevity, Tseng said, was to exercise regularly, smile every day, and choose not to worry.

“I have lots of small troubles like everybody, but I just say, ‘Forget about it,’” Tseng said last year. “Nothing is impossible.”

Tseng was born in Yokohama, Japan, and worked in imports and exports in Shanghai and Hong Kong for decades. He and his wife, Annie, who lived to be 100, settled in Los Angeles in 1975 when their daughter enrolled in college in Southern California.

He was also a fixture at Holmby Park in Westwood, where he would spend an hour or two with his caretakers after he finished his workout. Occasionally, tour bus guides would spot Tseng and yell to their riders: “Look, there’s the guy who’s 111!”

When a longtime friend at the YMCA stopped exercising because he was ashamed of symptoms brought on by Parkinson’s disease, Tseng vowed to find a way to help him stay active.

The friends convened a panel, including a UCLA neurologist and a rehabilitation therapist, and devised a fitness program for people with Parkinson’s, Tseng said in a 2004 interview in The Rotarian magazine. The classes and support groups are still offered at the Westwood YMCA.

“Do everything you can, and never refuse,” Tseng said last year. “Anybody asks you to do something, try hard to do it.”

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