By BURLON PARSONS
Journal-Spectator Lifestyle Editor
At age 50 Canadian small business owner Jacques Gauthier was told to prepare to get a wheel chair and spend the rest of his life there. Now at 65 he has already walked across Canada on a 4,000 mile trek and just walked through Wharton County this week on a 6,100 mile walk around the U.S.
Gauthier says his life was saved by doing nothing more than stretching exercises and watching what he eats.
Gauthier and his support driver Veronique Vandiest had stopped in Altair Monday morning for a lunch break. He had arrived in East Bernard on Friday evening and spent Saturday and Sunday morning there.
He says he now believes that stretching is the key to warding off aging and many of today’s illnesses.
In 1981 Gauthier was put on steroids for an illness. Nine years later he was told the steroids had caused bone degeneration and he would have to be put on another medicine for that.
“With 30 percent of my bone density gone, I was told not to go outside and not to exercise,” Gauthier said. “The doctor said to shop for a wheelchair and be prepared to spend the rest of my life there.”
He decided to stop taking the medications all together. His body was immediately wracked by the pains of arthritis. With unbearable pain, he went to bed for six months. He became weaker.
“I had tried different healers, but nothing helped,” he said. Then one night a friend called to tell him about a healer. But he lived 500 miles away.
The man said he would work with Gauthier, but he would have to stay with him for a month. He decided to go.
Therapy sessions consisted of nothing by stretching exercises. “The first time he stretched my muscles it was so painful that I passed out,” he said. “He told me I would have to make up my mind to endure the pain if I wanted to get stronger.”
After three weeks he said 50 percent of his pain was gone. His wife had suffered from back pain for 15 years. After starting a stretching program, her pain was gone.
After helping friends, family and neighbors, he began to teach. Now he is known internationally for the seminars he brings on the healthy lifestyle of stretching.
He stresses that doctors are limited with what they can do to help people. “Doctors can give medicines to give us life, but not good health,” Gauthier said. “Restoring health is up to the individual.”
“There are no drugs for good health,” he said. “Any of the drugs which are taken are going to have side effects and a person needs to be aware of that.”
By 1997 Gauthier and his wife walked 1,200 miles across the province of Quebec. In 1999 he walked across Canada coast to coast covering 4,000 miles.
His latest trek began in Montreal this spring and he was in Jacksonville, Fla., two and one-half months later. There he took a break to ride out the four storms which hit the state.
Back on the road he is headed for San Diego, Calif. As of Monday 2,360 miles of the 6,100 miles were done. From San Diego the couple will turn north and hope to be in Vancouver by May.
Throughout his journey he visits with many about the need for healthier lifestyles through stretching.
“Bad food and lack of exercise leads to illnesses,” he says. “With stretching there is no equipment to buy and the worst thing that could happen is that you will feel better.”
Gauthier says that as with anything changes should be made slowly. He points out that all of the muscles in our bodies need to be exercised everyday.
He laughs when he remembers going back to the doctor who condemned him to a wheelchair at age 50. “The doctor did a bone density test and came in and told me that their machine was broken because it said my bone density had returned,” he said. “He was very confused, but I knew what had happened.”
For more information about Gauthier and his teaching, visit his web site at www.stretching-plus.com.