Theresa Townsend has corporate America to thank for her career as a certified personal trainer and certified aerobics instructor.

“I was a legal assistant,” Townsend said, “and one way I could tolerate my job was to go and exercise.”

When she and her husband moved to Baton Rouge 17 years ago, she ditched her high heels for sneakers and never looked back.

“I turned working out into my profession, and it has been perfect for me,” said Townsend.

Growing up in rural California, Townsend said she lived an active life, dancing in high school and college and eating the fresh fruits and vegetables of her native state.

It wasn’t until she began her corporate life that she went in search of a gym.

“Exercise was the one thing that kept me sane,” she said with a laugh. Townsend discovered that others looked to her for advice, and it was something she felt comfortable doing.

“Now I work one-on-one with individuals as a personal trainer and with groups,” said Townsend, who admits to being “50 something” but looks like she’s in her 30s.

At 5:30 a.m. six days a week, Townsend is working with a client or teaching a class in aerobics, weights, spinning or Pilates, which she’ll do several times a day. On some days she also instructs LSU students. And, she walks the dog.

“My whole lifestyle is about being physical,” she said. She works with young people and older generations, particularly at the Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center, where she leads the Senior Wellness Program.

“The reasons people exercise change as they get older, but there’s always a desire to exercise,” she said. “For young people, some of them see their parents and grandparents exercising, so they may be a little more health conscious. For older people, it may be that they don’t want to pay for high blood pressure medicine or they’re trying to fight off diabetes.

Six days a week Townsend said she follows a “very strict” diet. For breakfast it’s a hard boiled egg, a slice of turkey bacon and coffee. Lunch is a salad, usually spinach, strawberries, apples and walnuts. A light dinner includes vegetables and a protein, like fish or chicken. “I do not eat after 6 p.m.,” she said. And on Sunday? “Sunday is my cheat day,” she said. “We take turns preparing Sunday dinner, and we eat whatever we want. I don’t worry about portions, and I eat dessert on Sunday.”

Her advice

Add movement to your life.

Even though Townsend, a petite column of well-defined muscles could easily kick back on the couch and let the remote do the work, she doesn’t.

“I put it on a table across the room so that when I want to change the channel I have to get up and move,” she said.

It’s something everyone could do.

“Make a game of it,” said Townsend. “Leave the remote over on a table. Maybe do that on Tuesdays. Do a bicep curl every time the phone rings. Just be creative and you’d be surprised at how much more you move.”

If you spend a lot of time sitting, focus on your posture. “Don’t slouch, even in your car,” she said.

And, of course, walk. And then walk some more.