BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After a big Thanksgiving dinner, the last thing on most people's mind is exercise man, but there is a man whose quest for healthy living built more than just muscle.
The steady thump of footsteps drone through the Pennington Biomedical Research Fitness Center. An occasional drop of sweat splashes down on the belt of the treadmill. Elmo Winters is in the gym. The Zachary minister is something of a rock star in the place. Decked out in Girbaud sweats and a tee-shirt, Winters is a serial Guinea pig. He has been exercising for science since 2000. He's volunteered for more health and diet studies than he can count.
"Through Pennington, I've learned how to change my behavior, as far as eating and exercise," Winters said.
But one study in particular changed his life. It was 2005 and Winters was working out to study exercise and diabetes. His mother suffered from the disease, but more importantly, Winters was watching diabetes rob his wife, Amanda, of her best years.
"We met in a chemistry class in high school," Winters explained.
The couple was married soon after. By 2005, they had been married nearly 43 years.
"She was a very pretty lady and diabetes robbed her of the beauty, the energy, the quality of life," Winters added.
Winters watched Amanda go from a very active special education teacher in the Zachary area to a woman who could no longer function.
"I'm watching her. I'm thinking about my mom as well and I'm just committed that I do not want to experience what I am seeing," Winters said.
The Pennington study was grueling - up to an hour on the treadmill five to seven days a week. That's where Winters met another serial Guinea pig, Therese Hill. She had turned to Pennington for an exercise program that would monitor her and hold her accountable. When the workouts got hard, Hill pushed Winters and he kept her accountable. That's what study-buddies do.
Halfway through the program, diabetes took Amanda. What started as a simple fall turned into a blood clot in the brain.
"Diabetes is a horrible, horrible thing. It just takes you down almost one organ at a time," Winters said.
He redoubled his efforts in the gym, determined to do everything he could to stave off the disease. That concerned Hill, who now had to push him in another direction.
"I pushed him to make sure that if he pinched himself that he would feel the pain, that he would take the time that he needed to sort through and find out who Elmo was," Hill said.
That sorting out took two years worth of studies, some with and some without his study-buddy. Last Friday, Winters and Hill committed to more than just exercise. In a small banquet room, in front of a family and a few friends, Winters and Hill became husband and wife.
Winters said it is something that happened naturally.
"A flowing together. It just kind of happened," Winters said.
"He was such a positive person. He was very spiritually grounded. He just possessed a lot of those qualities that any woman would want in a husband," Hill added.
Everyone knows that exercise is good for your heart. Every once in a while, it connects them.
Click here if you would like to participate in a Pennington study or call 763-3000.
Sadly, Pennington cannot promise similar results.