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5 Things Older Athletes Can Teach Us About Exercise Over 60

By Margaret Manning November 13, 2014 Health and Fitness

Most people would find the idea of completing 75 triathlons in 75 days daunting, but, this is exactly what Daphne Belt did to celebrate her 70th birthday. Daphne’s experience is inspirational, not just for her personal triumph, but, also for the message that it sends to women about exercise over 60.

You see, Daphne was not a born athlete. According to The Guardian, by her 50th birthday, Daphne was struggling with her weight to the point that she had difficulty climbing the stairs. Now, 25 years later, she is living proof that life after 50 can be filled with vitality, energy and new experiences.

Exercise came more naturally to long-distance swimmer, Diana Nyad, but, her story is no less inspirational. In August, 2013, at the age of 64, Diane became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage. After the swim, she dealt with the inevitable media storm with poise and professionalism.

There is no doubt that Daphne and Diane are amazing women. But, I hope that they would agree that, far from showing the amazing things that others can do, their experience shows what we can do if we put our minds to it.

Here are a few of the lessons that extreme athletes can tell us about exercise over 60.

Exercise Over 60 Could Save Your Life

Daphne is living proof that getting in amazing shape is possible at any age. Sometimes we just need to find the motivation to change. My wake-up call came a few years ago when I was visiting Paris. I was walking through the cobble-stoned streets, wearing entirely the wrong shoes, when I tripped and hit my head.

As I lay there for several minutes, waiting for someone to stop and help, I remember feeling a spectrum of emotions – fear that I might have seriously hurt myself, anger at my own stupidity and a desire to never let something like this happen again. I still have a long way to go before I run any Ironman triathlons, but, this experience was a poignant reminder of the importance of staying in good shape.

How do you feel about your body right now? Are there things that you would like to be able to do if you had more energy, flexibility or balance? Don’t wait for something dramatic to happen to you before you make a change. Find your motivation and get on the road to better health today.

Big Changes Come from Small Steps

All athletes know that the best way to train is to gradually increase the intensity of your workouts over time. This is not just a matter of staying motivated. It’s also the best way to increase the strength and endurance of your muscles.

In a previous article, I wrote about the power of the “1-minute rule.” In essence, this rule says that you can accomplish almost anything by starting with 1 minute of activity and then increasing your commitment over time.

Women like Daphne and Diane are inspirational, but, there is also a risk that the scope of their accomplishments might make them hard to relate to. Keep in mind that what these women did is less important than how and why they did it. The true message of their stories is that anything is possible if we apply ourselves consistently and with passion over time.

Can you think of one small step that you can take today to get in better shape? Write it down and take action!

Find Something Physical that You Are Also Passionate About

Daphne’s and Diane’s activities turned into passions over time. There are two important lessons here.

First, there are so many different activities out there that there is no reason to do something that you hate. If running isn’t your thing, why not try tennis? Can’t stand the idea of hitting a fuzzy little yellow ball back and forth? Why not consider dancing? Don’t like dancing? Why not try gentle yoga?

Second, very few activities are fun at the beginning. Both Daphne and Diane stuck with their activities for long enough for them to become passions. So, choose activities that you are genuinely interested with, but, give your body time to adapt before you call it quits.

Make Your Exercise About More than Just Yourself

Daphne and Diane made their activities about more than just themselves. Diane wanted to raise money for the Chestnut Tree House, a children’s hospital in Sussex, England, which is, coincidently where I am from originally. Diane wanted to inspire others and raise money for her favorite charities.

You may not be able to swim across an ocean, but, there are plenty of opportunities to make your exercise program about more than just yourself. Why not participate in a charity run or start a blog about your personal transformation? Giving yourself a mission will increase your chances of success, while making the world a better place.

We Need to Set an Example for Each Other

For those of you that have followed Sixty and Me for some time, you will know that one of my goals is to change stereotypes about aging. Every day, we are bombarded with anti-aging messages and stories about the inevitable decline of our brains and bodies after 60.

We need to help each other to change the narrative about aging. The more we see people our age running, participating in sports, breaking records and changing the world, the more we will come to see this as “normal.” Let’s not buy into the common myths about aging. Let’s follow the example of Daphne and Diane and live life with passion and verve! Let’s set an example for each other that anything is possible after 60!

Do you agree that exercise over 60 is important? What do you think of Daphne and Diane’s stories? Are there any other older athletes that inspire you? Which ones? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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