Mocht je nog opkijken tegen ‘the big 5-0’ of zelfs al de dag dat je 40 wordt, dan kunnen we aanraden dit artikel met regelmaat als een mantra te lezen. Want cliché maar waar: hoe oud je jezelf voelt ligt voor een groot deel in je eigen handen. De diverse rolmodellen uit het stuk (variërend in leeftijd tussen de 55 en 82 jaar) zijn in elk geval niet bezig met hun jaren, maar wel gefocust op een leefstijl die hun veel energie geeft. Het feit dat het in alle drie gevallen om sporters gaat is dan ook geen toeval: er is niets wat je zo soepel houdt als flink bewegen. En ook een geruststelling: wanneer je ook begint, je hebt er altijd profijt van. De oudste dame in dit artikel begon met Tae Kwon Do toen ze 49 was. Inmiddels is ze 82, heeft ze een zwarte band in die gevechtsport en is ze zeer actief gevechtsinstructeur in haar eigen opgerichte sportschool.
You may not see them on the airbrushed covers of muscle magazines, and they may not get the lion’s share of athletic-wear sponsorships. But while the rest of us are worrying about fitting into skinny jeans or out-lifting the guy on the next incline bench, a lot of older fitness enthusiasts — people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond — are quietly kicking some serious fitness butt.
In fact, some of them could, right now, turn out athletic performances impressive enough to put many 20-somethings’ fitness accomplishments to shame. Maybe it’s the decades of training experience they’ve accumulated. Maybe it’s the fact that they long ago put the most superficial body obsessions behind them and have since been able to focus on the fitness attainments that really matter.
Then again, maybe they are simply doing that thing we all say we want to do, but that so few of us actually manage: They are getting better with age.
One thing’s for darn sure — they are by no means going to pot. And that means they have something of real value to teach the rest of us.
Leading health researchers now agree that the rate at which we age is, to a great extent, something we can control. And with proper training, lifestyle and nutritional support, the potential for stellar athletic performance declines less than you might suspect.
These days, it’s not all that unusual for a late-blooming athlete to set a personal best in her 40s or 50s. Or for folks in their 50s and 60s to regularly compete against athletes decades younger. Or for dedicated enthusiasts to continue playing their sport with full gusto well into their 70s and beyond.
A 2007 study by Carl Foster, a professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, found that people over 50 can optimize fitness by combining intense cardio, strength training and extra rest. Apart from the additional rest, the prescription is identical to their younger peers.
And the physical benefits of being fit are significant: everything from better neurocognitive function and bolstered immunity to lower blood pressure and decreased risk of diabetes, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. And then, of course, there are the bragging rights.
We asked a few especially fit over-50 folks how they do it. Ralph Bovard, 55, Loretta Hill, 68, and Marjorie Templeton, 82, generously shared their secrets. (For more on how to tailor a fitness prescription to your age or activity level, see “What Now?”)
Marjorie Templeton, 82
Tae kwon do black belt, Southgate, Ky.
Three times a week, 82-year-old Marjorie Templeton hits the gym for more than an hour of weights, cardio and stretching. Those are her easy days.
Other days, she’s at the tae kwon do school she founded near Cincinnati, teaching and supervising four hours of martial arts classes.
On vacation, she scuba dives.
But until her late 40s, Templeton was so busy raising children and earning her doctorate in education that she didn’t make time for exercise. In fact, her first formal attempt at exercise didn’t occur until 1975 when, at the age of 49, she decided to join her two daughters at their tae kwon do class.