You're never too old to start exercising

Look at Joan MacDonald. Her fitness career didn’t start till her 70s!

When Joan MacDonald was 70, she felt like she was slowly dying. She weighed almost 200 lbs and was on daily medication for high blood pressure, acid reflux, and cholesterol. She’d had knee surgery, fallen down several times, and suffered from progressive arthritis. When her doctor said it was time to increase her medication dosage, she realized she needed to make a serious lifestyle change.

Helped by her daughter Michelle, a professional bodybuilder and gym owner in Tulum, Mexico, Joan embarked on a journey to become healthy, strong, and fit. She described this challenging transformation in an interview with Gill Deacon that I heard on CBC Radio last week, and it was a wonderfully inspiring conversation.

The gist of Joan’s message is that it is never too late to start getting in shape – and that women, in particular, need this encouragement as they approach middle age. Past 40, women are often told to slow down, take it easy, not lift so heavy, scale back the workouts, even start taking medications; and yet, as Joan pointed out, that’s ridiculous:

“People think that lifting weights [at my age] is terrible for your body. But the more you lift, the stronger your bones become. Why would you want to have soft bones?”

She is not the only one who’s made drastic changes late in life. The Guardian recently published an article called, “Why do people think 41 is too old to exercise? It’s a perfect time to start.” It described a man named Fauja Singh, who took up running at 84 and did his first (of many) marathons at 89. As Dr. Rangan Chatterjee explained,

“Exercise will help no matter what age you are. But once we’re over 30 we start to lose muscle mass each year – and lean muscle mass is one of the main predictors of longevity. So exercise, especially strength training, becomes arguably more important than ever.”

Joan is now 73 and in the best shape of her life. She has 135,000+ followers on Instagram and has been featured on several magazine covers. She’s no longer afraid of the camera and happily poses in gym wear that shows off an impressively defined back.

I am hopeful that the culture is slowly changing and more middle-aged women are embracing exercise as a normal part of life. My CrossFit classes always have a few over-50, grey-haired men and women mixed in with us younger people, all striving for greater health, strength, and an overall sense of wellbeing.

It really doesn’t matter what you do, just as long as you get up off the couch and do it consistently. Don’t let age discourage you, but rather become an impetus to get stronger, faster, and better.

Look at Joan MacDonald. Her fitness career didn’t start till her 70s!

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