Longevity Secrets: Advice from Golden Olympians
Truly Golden Age
Olympic athletes are our role models for health and fitness. However, like everyone else, even Olympians age. After winning their medals, these elite athletes get older and eventually retire from their sports. Three former gold medalists of different generations share their advice on how they maintained a healthy lifestyle as they aged. Read on to learn their secrets about healthy aging, longevity, and staying fit through the years, and find out how you can do the same!
Olympians make staying active a top priority. At the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, gymnast Shannon Miller won a total of seven gold medals.
After she retired, Miller struggled to maintain the fitness that had come easily as a teenager, and gained weight. She realized she had to make a change.
Today, Miller eats “everything in moderation.” She traded vigorous balance-beam routines for simple workouts. “I love to go on walks with my son,” she says. “I do elliptical while he naps. Staying active helps in so many other areas.”
Mind the Basics
Wendy Boglioli and her relay teammates won gold and set a world record in women’s swimming in 1976. She continues to train in and out of the pool, often leaving much younger people in her wake.
Boglioli believes that the number-one factor behind healthy aging is nutrition. “That means eating real food,” she says. “If you can’t hunt it, pick it, harvest it, or fish it, do not eat it! If you could just do 80 percent of your diet that way – that would be huge.”
Boglioli also stresses the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. “So many people think that it’s just three or four hours and I’m good to go,” Boglioli says. “But you need those eight to nine hours of sleep, because it is only then that the body will recover mentally and physically.”
Don’t fall for the myth that you need less sleep as you age. The Cleveland Clinic notes that while sleep patterns may change in older adults, their need for sleep is the same as that of younger people.
Fitness Doesn't Take an Age
A true golden Olympian, Dick Fosbury won gold at the Olympics in 1968, revolutionizing a new high jump technique that became known as the “Fosbury Flop.”
From Fosbury’s home in the mountains of Idaho, he takes advantage of easy access to exercise opportunities like hiking and snowshoeing. He finds that if he spends 15 to 30 minutes walking, running, or climbing, it relieves stress. Even a 10- to 15-minute exercise session can lift your mood, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Find the Fun
Fosbury emphasizes that one of his most important longevity secrets has been to find ways to continue to have fun being active. “Fun is always an important part of it,” he says. “If I miss playing or having some activity, I don’t feel as good. Consider that with your exercise, you are recreating yourself. While you’re doing recreation, you are recreating yourself each day.”
Do What You Can
As a baby boomer moving into middle age and retirement, Boglioli says it’s more important for her to be on her game now. “People should embrace the age they are,” she says. “I am going to do everything in my power to be as fit as I can, going forward.”
Boglioli adds that embracing exercise as something you want to do, rather than something you have to do, paves a new future. “It’s less about surviving and more about thriving,” she says.
Only a Change of Heart
Fosbury adds that not everyone needs to change. Sometimes it’s just about recognizing and validating the steps that you’re already taking in the right direction.
“I’m here to encourage people to continue what they’re doing, if they’re happy and getting some exercise,” Fosbury says. “All of that is so important, and it’s the philosophy of Olympism: to balance body, spirit, and mind.”
- Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. (2011, October 1). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043
- Myths and Facts about Sleep. (2008, July 11). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Sleep_Disorders/hic_Myths_and_Facts_About_Sleep.aspx