94-year-old Master track star an inspiration to all

Howard LeWine, M.D.

Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

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.


  1. what you say is valuable and everything. However just imagine if you added some great visuals or videos to give your posts more

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  3. InfoAccess

    Bruce Grierson, the author of the Parade article, also wrote a book about Olga and the science of aging: What makes Olga run?. I’ve just finished it…..very readable….I’ve got to get moving more!

  4. Ontario-Wine.com

    Lighten up is so true! Great article.

  5. Sharon

    Very inspiring to say the least, gives me hope to get moving. I suffer from anxiety a lot, so I know exercise will not hurt to help me through this. I just need to hear a story like this to know your never to old . Thanks Olga. Keep it up.

  6. Sharon

    This is very inspring to say the least, we feel after we get older that we become lazy and that there is no place for us, we did it all when we where younger, very much wrong thinking on our part. Olga gives me a different out look about age. Thank you, way to go.

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    Actually it shows what can be achieved if you “think you can” and just do. Keeping the body in good shape with juices,minerals,exercise,etc. and clean living helps a lot.Glad she remarked on “sitting”. people sit too much and it shows in their shape.The body is meant to move & groove-not turn into a stool and just sit there.

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  9. Physiotherapy Drogheda

    First off, all Health is most important in our life. How we maintain our health it is important thing. The above blog is very interesting basically this article write on the lady name is Olga Kotelko. How she maintained herself and which type of activity she is performing daily is really inspiring.

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