Need a little motivation? These people will inspire you not just to live your best life at any age but also to seize the moment and achieve fitness you never thought possible.
I lost 160 pounds so I could do a cartwheel for my daughter
Courtesy Patricia Jenkins
As a busy mother of five, Patricia Jenkins, 54, of Zachary, Louisiana, felt that she didn’t have time to take care of herself. In her younger years she had been an aerobics instructor, played volleyball, and was a dancer, but she’d let her own passions slide as she helped her kids find theirs; her weight topped out at 320 pounds. Then, in 2012, her son announced that he was getting married, and she decided it was time to get fit. “I did not want to be the mother of the groom coming down the aisle in a dress that looked like a sheet!” she says. She also wanted to be able to play sports with her kids and be a good example for the ones still living at home.
She was able to drop two dress sizes before the wedding. Goal number two? “I wanted to do a cartwheel with my daughter,” she says. “I know this sounds extreme, as I still weighed over 288 pounds. To be able to lift all that weight to do a cartwheel would be a challenge.” But Jenkins loves a good challenge, and over the next few years, through careful diet and bariatric surgery, she was able to get her weight down to a toned 160, losing half her body weight.
Along the way she learned so much, she decided that she wanted to help others achieve their fitness goals, becoming a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist. “Being 54 years young, I’d like to be able to show others that being fit and living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to stop because you reach a certain age,” she says. “[A] daily exercise regimen and proper nutrition is my solution for a healthy lifestyle and for longevity.”
Oh, and that cartwheel? She nailed it. Check out these 17 myths you shouldn’t believe about fitness after 50.
I’m 78 and I’m stronger and lighter than I was in high school
Courtesy James P. Owen
“On my 70th birthday, I saw a video of myself, hunched over and shuffling up to the podium where I was giving a talk. I was shocked! I looked like an old man,” says James P. Owen of Austin, Texas. “And the worst part was, I felt like one, too!” Back pain, knee pain, and shoulder pain—along with being overweight—made him feel like “a mess.” But instead of citing those conditions as an excuse, he used them as motivation to get fit. “I decided then and there that I was going to get in shape no matter what it took,” he says. He put his goal in writing so that there would be no backing out when things got tough.
At first, he says, he had a hard time finding fitness advice tailored to folks in their eighth decade of life and beyond. So he started with daily walks and stretching. Once he had those down, he added weight lifting to his routine, hiring a personal trainer to teach him the proper form and to design a routine. “Many people don’t realize that as we get older, we steadily lose lean muscle mass unless we’re doing something to counteract that—that’s why strength training is even more important for older people than it is for younger folks,” Owen says. The last piece was finding other activities he enjoyed, like tai chi, yoga, cycling, and swimming.
Eventually he dropped the extra weight, accomplishing a milestone not many can claim: He now weighs considerably less than he did in high school. At 17 years old he was 205 pounds. Today, at 78, Owen weighs a muscular 155. He also added another impressive accolade, authoring the book Just Move! A New Approach to Fitness After 50. “I learned that when you’re over 50, your fitness goals should be practical—functional fitness is about being physically equipped for the tasks of daily life. When you’re young, you can take those abilities for granted, but not when you’re older,” he says. “I’m living proof that, as long as you’re still mobile, it’s never too late to become more fit!” Find out the best way to work out for every decade of life.
I healed my knee and became a fitness coach
Courtesy Chris Lindquist
When Chris Lindquist of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was 50, she was hit with, as she calls it, “a serious case of the middle-age blahs. I had no energy, I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was using food to deal with stress, along with a nightly glass (or two!) of wine,” she says. “I felt stuck in my body.”
Then she came across the book Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley, and became inspired by its message not to wait to get fit. “It taught me to see daily exercise as not something to ‘fit in’ but as my job,” she says. She saw a physical therapist, who helped her resolve her knee problems, and started hitting the gym regularly. The last piece of her health puzzle fell into place when she saw a friend’s Facebook post about her own new diet-and-exercise program and became inspired to join her. Avoid these 22 habits that are making you age faster.
Her friend became her coach, giving her support and encouragement while making her accountable. Eventually Lindquist became inspired to become a health coach herself. “Now, at 58, I have my own team with the goal to empower other women in their health journeys,” she says. “I’m invigorated, have energy, am sleeping well, and finally learned not to turn to food for comfort. I’m so pleased with my outer transformation—I proved that you can lose weight after menopause!—but the inner transformation is what really stokes me. I am confident in myself, I am able to love my family and friends better, and feel empowered!” Watch out for these 15 signs that your body is aging faster than you are.