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Age Myth: You're Too Old To Get In Shape

age myth youre too old to get in shape people walking

In a recent story that garnered national attention, a home intruder got more than he bargained for when he knocked on Willie Murphy’s door.

The incident took place in Rochester, New York, where Murphy, 82 years old, was approached by a man at her home asking for assistance, claiming to suffer from a gunshot wound. She obliged to help her fellow human and let the man in. Moments later, the would-be victim became the assailant and attempted to attack and steal from Murphy.

Murphy, however, wasn’t going to have any of it, and promptly pummeled the intruder with her table. Once he was down on the ground, she poured shampoo in his eyes and then continued to hold him down with the handle of a broom until the police arrived.

It’s a great story, and even more amazing when we learn that Murphy is a 5-foot-tall, 105 pound, 82-year-old woman. It turns out that Murphy is a seasoned weightlifter who can bench press double her weight and has been weightlifting since she started the program at the age of 70!

Not only do we have vindication here—sometimes the good guy wins—but this story is also a perfect example pointing to the reality that you are never too old to get in shape. The key is to make your focus improvement from where you start, not some exaggerated idea of perfection.

In another example over at The Healthy, Charlotte Hilton Anderson cites several cases of older adults improving their health and getting into better shape at surprising ages in her article “11 People Who Got Into The Best Shape of Their Life After 50.”

My favorite story from the article is that of James Owen who, at the age of 70, decided to turn around his shuffling gate and hunched posture with an exercise program tailored to his needs, which allowed for gradual improvement. Now at the age of 78, this program has yielded life-changing results.

Owen acknowledged that the biggest hurdle was finding the right exercise program for people in their 70s, but he made slow and steady progress and stuck to it. He even went on to write a book about his experiences and the types of exercises and diet he found useful.

Owen attributes a great deal of his progress to weightlifting, stating, “Many people don’t realize that as we get older, we steadily lose lean muscle mass unless we’re doing something to counteract that—that’s why strength training is even more important for older people than it is for younger folks.”


The most important thing for everyone, but especially for older adults, is to recognize you start from where you are and that is okay. Talk to your physician and connect with a physical therapist if you need to make modifications in exercises, but no matter your level there is room for improvement. Your only target is to build from where you are at present.

I’m in reasonably good health for a woman of 57 but I have high blood pressure and am on a statin. Presently, I’m also about 15 pounds overweight and would like to get into better physical shape so I can drop the weight and feel better overall.

Admittedly, I suffer from the self-talk of “it’s too late and what’s the point now?” that does not serve. And, given my tendency to be distracted, I haven’t put my goal of regular exercise at the top of my daily list.

No more! I’m focused on building from where I presently am and being the best I can be at this point. I met with my doctor recently and let her know of my intention to work toward improved fitness, and she gave me the green light.

With the launch of 2020 I’ve started with small steps in the form of mini-habits. So, to begin I’ve committed to 10 minutes of stretching and 10 of cardio activity each day. (See what I mean here. Small.)

My focus is on feeling better and making gradual progress. The article “Debunking 5 Myths About Fitness” over at Sling Shot Health, points out that keeping to regular activity, even in small steps, will pay off in increased endorphins. I’m banking on those little buggers to help, especially during the winter months when I tend to get a bit blue.

Remember to KEEP IT SMALL! And use your journal as a self-talk and tracking tool to measure how you are becoming your best you.  

As per Ella Fitzgerald, “It isn’t where you come from; it’s where you’re headed that counts.”

It’s mid-January and I’m on my way. There have been falters, but each day I give myself permission to go the distance just a bit farther. You can too.


Journal your goals several times over the course of your journaling. It turns out that writing down your goals frequently will boost your odds of achieving them.

Track your mini-habits by sticking yearly calendars in your journal for each mini-habit you set, and then check off each day that you accomplish them. Watch those days tally up and feel good about making progress. Remember, it’s not perfection but progress that counts.

 picture compliments of Photo by Henry Xu on Unsplash

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