Conventional wisdom tells us that the human body reaches its physical peak around age 30. From then on, our bones become more brittle, our muscle flexibility declines, and our cells simply don’t process oxygen as well. But for people who are determined to remain active, none of that matters. Whether they started at age 7 or age 70, the world is full of senior athletes who have proven that just because you’re retirement age doesn’t mean you have to retire from leading an active life.
Walking 80 miles at 80
At age 80, Bruce Tulloh can walk further than most young adults can. Tulloh was always a remarkable runner – in 1962 he was Europe’s 5,000 meter champion. In 1969, he ran from LA to New York, totaling 2,876 miles in just over two months. And at age 80, Tulloh refuses to slow down, with a recent highly publicized 80-mile walk. Though calling it a walk may be misleading, as Tulloh admitted to becoming bored and jogging many times that day.
Shooting Hoops at 90
The San Diego Splash is probably unlike any basketball team you’ve seen before. While you’re required to be at least 80 years old to join the team, most of their players are 85 and up. Many of these women had never played a game of basketball until joining the team. Most didn’t have the opportunity earlier in their lives, because the legislation that outlawed sexual discrimination in schools, Title IX, only became law in 1972.
That may be why nearly every member of San Diego Splash said the same thing about their decision to start playing – they did it because they knew they would regret not trying out. You can catch San Diego Splash playing 30-minute three-on-three matches, often against players less than half their age.
Doing Gymnasts at 90
At age 91, Johanna Quaas can still adeptly use the balance beam, as well as perform nearly all of the flips and somersaults of a gymnast half her age. Johanna started doing gymnastics as a child, and she still trains almost every day. Why does she do it? Johanna believes being fit makes life easier, and it doesn’t hurt that her family enjoys being active with her.
Being a Game Show Ninja at 60
If you’ve never seen it before, American Ninja Warrior is a sports entertainment show where contestants battle their way through a series of physically challenging obstacle courses. You leap from platform to platform, climb over giant obstacles, and undertake a variety of tasks that routinely dispatch young, athletic challengers.
But that didn’t stop 64-year old John Loobey from setting a record in the latest season of American Ninja Warrior. Loobey became the oldest competitor to ever clear an obstacle, and he managed to go on and clear a second obstacle as well! For those unfamiliar with the show, that’s a challenge that hundreds of people half of his age have failed to do.
Another Ninja Warrior at 70
At the age of 67, Rich Talavera became the Top Overall Performer at the Sunflower State Games in Kansas City — winning gold medals for the long jump, high jump, javelin, 400 meter dash, and more. For 10 years prior, he’d been a regular participant in the Senior Olympics. Not content to stop there, now at the age of 70, Talavera tried out for American Ninja Warrior, wowwing producers with the fact that he can do a handstand on a skateboard. Name a 20-something who can do that?!
Ernestine Shepherd had lived a relatively inactive life before she began lifting weights at age 56. Today she’s in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest competitive female bodybuilder. A normal day for Shepherd begins at 2:30 am, when she starts a 10-mile walk… before continuing to the gym. When she’s not preparing to undertake half-marathons, Shepherd is traveling the country to lead instructional workout classes.
Athletics for Seniors
For older adults interested in becoming more active, remember that technology is your friend! Drag-resistant swimsuits, carbon-fiber bicycles, and low-impact exercise equipment can create entirely new opportunities for seniors to exercise safely and comfortably. Even a simple heart rate monitor can go a long ways towards ensuring you don’t push yourself too hard. If there’s one thing you can learn from these senior athletes, it’s that all you need to stay active are small, steady steps.
Are you inspired by older athletes? Are you or an older adult you know involved in athletic competitions? Or are you having a hard time getting into fitness as a senior? What do you feel would motivate you? Tell us your stories in the comments below!