A recent article in Parade magazine caught my eye because it has lessons for us all. The article was about Olga Kotelko, a 94-year-old woman, who is a competitive runner and track star. Her age alone is impressive. The fact that she didn’t enter her first Master’s competition until she was 77—an age when many people are hanging up their sneakers—is amazing.
The article offers six lessons that anyone can learn from Ms. Kotelko’s daily life:
Swap Sudoku for sneakers: Yes, challenging brain activities can help protect memory and thinking skills. But so can exercise. And exercise has many other benefits for health.
Stay on your feet: The less you sit each day, the better. That doesn’t mean constantly walking. Try reading, writing letters, or working on a computer at a stand-up desk. If you watch TV, stand or sit and exercise.
Eat real food: Avoid processed foods and eat real ones. Fruits, vegetables, grains, chicken, even red meat sometimes.
Be a creature of (good) habit: Daily rituals are a great way to cement good habits.
Cultivate a sense of progress: We all like rewards. Being able to see improvement—in the distance you can walk or the weight you can lift—can motivate you to exercise daily and follow other good habits.
Lighten up: Stress is bad for the mind and the body. Find ways to ease stress, or nip it in the bud. Exercise is a good stress reliever, as is meditation or other form of invoking the relaxation response.
I’ll add another lesson touched on in the article: It takes a village. Kotelko works with a coach, Harold Morioka, who is himself a gifted Masters athlete. And she regularly works out with a running buddy, 76-year-old Christa Bortignon, who this year won the 2013 World Female Masters Athlete award.
Olga Kotelko can be an inspiration for anyone who wants to start exercising or to exercise more. As I have written before, you are never too old or too frail to start exercising. Getting started is probably the toughest hurdle to overcome. Too often, older or frail individuals have the wrong impression that they are past the point where exercise can do any good. In fact, it can do them a world of good.
Start out with a safe, easy program. Gradually add more and harder exercise. Who knows where you might end—possibly in an event challenging the likes of Olga Kotelko.