7 Fitness Lessons from a 101-Year Old Champion 7 Fitness Lessons from a 101-Year Old Champion SprinterSprinter

Ida Keeling was 100 in April when she set a world record at the Penn Relays in the 100-meter dash event. Her record-setting time in the 80-and-older category was 1:17.33. How does she do it? Keeling, who started competing at age 67, has been asked by reporters from TV networks, magazines and newspapers about the secret to her success. Her advice is simple and is something almost all of us can follow.

  1. “I eat for nutrition, not for taste,” she told the New York Times. A recent feature article on Keeling described a dietary regimen most of us know we should follow: fresh produce and healthy grains, no preservatives, moderate servings of meat. The cod liver oil some of us remember from early childhood is still a part of her daily routine, but she also enjoys an occasional glass of cognac.
  2. Exercise every day. Keeling works out daily, doing push-ups, yoga postures, and strength exercises in addition to running. US News & World Report praised her dedication to daily fitness as important for healthy aging.

Beyond her words, Keeling sets an example by what she does. Not everyone can be a competitive sprinter, but the concepts at the heart of her success can be adapted for people in all kinds of circumstances.

  1. Keep moving. Keeling has arthritis, and the Times reported that she sometimes walks with a cane, but she keeps training and competing.
  2. Set goals. Keeling’s goal is to train for an hour a day. Another person’s target might be to start with five minutes of daily walking, ten minutes of gentle yoga, or a dozen repetitions with light weights.
  3. Maintain your mental health. Keeling’s daughter Shelley helped her mom start running competitively to cope with grief, depression, and cardiovascular problems after Keeling’s two adult sons were killed. Exercise can help with mood, and so can having a family member or friend encouraging you to take better care of yourself.
  4. Be as self-sufficient as possible. Keeling does as much as possible for herself, a habit she says came from growing up during the Great Depression. Not all of us are as mobile and active as Keeling, but there’s usually something we can do for ourselves to boost our self-reliance and self-confidence.
  5. Make fitness a team effort. Keeling works out with her daughter, Shelley, an athlete in her own right and a career track and field coach. If you don’t have a workout partner or group, see if any of your neighbors are interested in walking with you. Maybe your local rec center has a Pilates class or dance classes. Most independent living and assisted living communities offer regular fitness activities, too. Check them out, make some workout pals, and you’re likely to find yourself moving more.

Lest you think that Keeling is alone in maintaining athletic skill at her age, think again. 100-year old Ella Mae Colbert of South Carolina unofficially broke Keeling’s record just a couple of weeks later, with a time of 46 seconds. The rest of us are going to have to work harder to keep up. You can find more senior fitness inspiration on the SeniorAdvisor.com blog.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.


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