When Doris Long wanted to raise money for a local charity, she decided to do it in a big way. A champion at rappelling, Doris vowed to conquer Spinnaker Tower, a 560-foot structure just outside of London. Doris completed the descent in the pouring rain, which is really no surprise, since Doris holds a World Record in rappelling. She has performed a number of impressive slides, raising thousands of dollars for hospice charities.

She’s also 101 years old.

Doris is not alone. All over the world, seniors are excelling at ‘extreme’ athletics, performing feats that put their younger counterparts to shame. Mountain climbing, body-building, and even pole dancing all boast champions who shine in silver light.
French athlete Robert Marchand is 105 years old. Robert also holds World Records in his sport of choice, cycling, after hopping on a bike at age 75. In his younger days Robert—who stands four feet eleven inches and weighs 110 pounds—was told that he was too small to ever be successful at the sport.

Good thing he didn’t listen.

How about skateboarding? Most people over the age of 20 would leave that to the kids, but Lloyd Khan first set his feet to wheels when he was 65—and this wasn’t ordinary skateboarding. Lloyd became a champion downhill skateboarder, weaving through the winding hills of San Francisco at eye-popping speeds. By the time he was 81 he was still going strong. According to Lloyd, “I’m not giving up skating as long as I can walk.”

The incredible tenacity demonstrated by these seniors is proof positive that age and limitation don’t go hand-in-hand. Too many people use the simple fact of growing older as a reason to slow down, when it’s actually a wonderful time to speed up. Physical fitness is a great example of use-it-or-lose-it, and cutting regular exercise from your routine means losing a lot, such as mobility, stamina, and strength. A sedentary lifestyle in the later years creates a host of problems that are not easily resolved. Obesity, lack of ambulation, and depression are all dangerous side-effects of hanging up your running shoes.

Physicians know this, which is why Medicare has created an easy way for its participants to get active. Silver Sneakers is a fitness program tailor-made for seniors and readily available at hundreds of gyms across the country. Medicare recipients are offered free, unlimited access to participating fitness centers for weight training, swimming, cardio, exercise classes, and more.

Aside from the physical benefits Silver Sneakers has to offer, there is also a social component. Group classes are a great way to meet new people, and having an exercise buddy or two will help boost motivation.

So even if hopping off a building or skating down the pavement aren’t quite your thing, there are many ways to get yourself in the best shape you can be. Join a gym, get a walking buddy, or hop in the community pool! For more ideas, and information on free gym access, visit silversneakers.com.