Isabella Paspa is a living advertisement for the benefits of exercise — lots of exercise. She will be 73 years old in May and says she has never felt better, never been in such good shape, never been so mentally relaxed.
“Exercise is key,” says Paspa. “When you move, you’re going to keep moving. And when you stop … ”
Stopping is something Paspa doesn’t often do. Her typical day starts at 6 a.m. By 7:30, she is in a fitness class at the Longboat Key Club — whichever is on the schedule.
She does another class at 8:30 and then plays tennis, three to four times a week.
Several days a week, Paspa plays golf. On many afternoons, she is back at the Key Club for a late-day fitness class. In the evening, she is often in the swimming pool at her condominium. Paspa takes just about every class the Key Club offers, from stretch to spinning, with stops along the way for a wide variety of muscle strength and conditioning sessions. She raves about the new classroom and says the class program is “the best it’s ever been.” Pushed to name her favorite kind of exercise, she says “Pilates and yoga, especially yoga on the beach.” There’s a reason.
When Paspa and her late husband, Dr. Alex Paspa, were living in New York, they moved into a new penthouse apartment where she set about creating a rooftop garden. She was supposed to call her husband when the delivery people showed up with the soil, but she decided to move the heavy bags herself. The result was two painful injured disks in her back. She credits yoga and Pilates with helping to heal her spine.
Born in Bosnia, her family later moved to Yugoslavia. Paspa came in 1966 to the United States. Her first husband died in 1969. She met Alex Paspa while dining at Piccolo Venezia, a Queens, N.Y., restaurant that was popular with Bosnians. The couple moved in 1993 to Longboat Key when Alex Paspa retired. They enjoyed 32 years together before he died in 2008.
At 5 feet, 9 1/2 inches tall, Paspa weighs 143 pounds and wears a size six. She has no arthritis and no osteoporosis. She drinks a lot of milk but takes no supplemental calcium. She is a bona fide “Aerobic Grandma” to a total of six grandchildren.
Molly Schechter is an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialty in older-adult fitness plus YogaFit Instructor Training, SCF Yoga Fundamentals I and II and Power Pilates™ Mat Certifications. She teaches classes at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center and the Longboat Key Club. Email her at email@example.com.