At the age of 81, Jeanne Daprano has high hopes for the future and does not yearn for the past. Jeanne is a competitive runner, who currently holds multiple world records for her achievements in track and field.
And, according to Jeanne, she hasn’t even hit her peak yet.
“The thing I’m learning about aging is, it’s inevitable,” she says. “I’m not going to escape it. There are two ways to go: You can either press on or give up. Do I want to go back to 50, 40? No. Because I think the best is yet to come.”
Research (and common sense!) tells us that fitness and exercise is the pathway to increased longevity and improved health in the later years. While we also know that a large part of living to an advanced age has to do with our genetic predisposition, having good exercise habits and staying fit mean that those years will undoubtedly be healthier and more active. Lyle Unger is a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Computer and Information Science who explains that regular exercise creates a body that will not wind down slowly, but rather all at once.
“What I really like about exercise is, not only do you live longer,” he says, “but you die faster in the sense that once you finally start to fall apart, you fall apart quickly. Exercise is good that way.”
This is a theory that Jeanne subscribes to wholeheartedly. At the age of 70, Jeanne hired a personal trainer to help her devise and follow an exercise program specifically for her needs. She’s not just interested in maintaining her current level of fitness but pushing herself to new heights through new activities—something that led her to shatter another world record, this time in rowing, where she currently holds the record for women in the 80-84 range.
As far as motivating others, Jeanne suggests taking inventory—starting with your current level of fitness and going from there to determine how your interests and passions can help motivate you toward bettering yourself.
It’s worth it to take the time to figure out what you enjoy. Are you someone who loves the solitude exercise can bring, or would you prefer a more social experience? Even brief bursts of activity can increase your lifespan according to Ungar.
“The first 20 minutes [of exercise] a day probably buys you two years [extra] life expectancy,” Ungar says. “Clearly a win. The second 20 minutes per day probably buys you about one more year.”
So think about how to incorporate those activity minutes into your day—because the more you exercise the easier it will be, and the more you can push yourself to hit greater goals. Whether that means going for a daily stroll, flicking on an exercise video, or joining a gym for some regular classes, try and make exercise something that you’ll begin to look forward to.