15 Senior Athletes Share the Secrets to Staying Fit Your Entire Life

Updated: Sep. 14, 2017

These inspirational pros will get you up and moving.

In 1987 the first ever National Senior Games – The Senior Olympics took place. It had 2,500 participants and that number continues to grow every new year the games are played. The National Senior Games Association is a nonprofit organization that puts on the National Senior Games ever other year all around the U.S. They’re dedicated to “motivating active adults to lead a healthy lifestyle through the senior games movement.” The NSGA asked some of their athletes for tips and tricks to staying fit and continuing to love exercise even as they age. We collected some of our favorite ones to share. Also try incorporating these 50 easy habits to help you live longer into your daily routine.

Courtesy Tom Lough

Tom Lough, 73, Track and Field (1968 U.S. Olympian)

“All anybody needs is some sort of goal or motivation to work towards and to measure incremental progress. Be always curious and don’t abandon your childish nature from earlier years. Just look around, ask questions, and be willing and eager to learn. I believe that just moving more since I became active in the Senior Games has improved and maintained the quality of life for me.” These are anti-aging tips to keep your brain young.

Courtesy Don Phillips

Don Phillips, 85, Track and Field

“Outlive some, and outrun the rest!”

Courtesy Sharon Huczek

Sharon Huczek, 68, Rochester, Michigan Racquetball, Pickleball

“You have to do it, walk the talk. I’m not afraid to tell people ‘If you want to reach that goal, you just have to go through the process and do the hard work. There is a price to be paid for increased strength, movement and energy. There are no excuses. It’s a total commitment of body, mind and soul.” Avoid these daily habits that might be aging you prematurely.

Courtesy Donna Gonzales

Donna Gonzales, 74, Track and Field

“It is important for older people to do all kinds of active things so the younger ones coming up can see what you can do all of your life. I remember when my mother was 30 I was thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, she is sooo old!’ but when I got to be 30 I wasn’t old one bit. When I got to 50 I sure didn’t feel like I was old. And I still feel good.” Try eating these anti-aging foods to add years to your life.

Courtesy Mary Begaye

Mary Begaye, 66, Basketball (Captain, “Anasazi” women’s basketball team)

“Take care of the Elder that you will become.”

Courtesy Benjamin Morris

Kay Glynn, 64, Track & Field

“My favorite expression is one I heard at the National Senior Games: ‘You don’t quit playing games when you grow old; you grow old when you quit playing games.’ Really, I just go out and play like a kid. When I go out to play with my kids (and now my grandkids) I don’t just watch, I play with them.” Try these secrets to staying young from women who don’t age.

Courtesy George Freeman

George Freeman, 85, Track and Field, Bowling, Cycling

“The key motivation for me every day is right when I get up. I sit up, I both feet on the floor and ask, ‘Is there any reason why I can’t run or bike today?’ And I always say ‘No!’ So I get up and I’m gone. I go out for an hour and I feel good about it when I come back in.” (has competed in every National Senior Games since first in 1987)

Courtesy Helene Hirsch

Helene Hirsch, 59, Swimming

“Stop thinking about all the reasons it won’t work and focus on one reason that it will. Find one SMALL thing you can improve. Focus on that one item and seek to give it everything you’ve got every day for about a week. The results will astound you!” Try these tips on how to look younger from dermatologists.

Courtesy Robert O'Rourke

Robert O’Rourke, 73, Track and Field

“Everything in moderation. Don’t deny yourself, but also don’t think you have to be perfect all the time either. You will be surprised how much LITTLE positive changes and steps add up. Just do it—because even when you don’t feel like working out or training, you are always glad you did afterwards. ALWAYS!” These are the habits of people who look and act way younger than their actual age.

Courtesy Jonathon Bortner

Jay Bortner, 71, Tennis

“Stay active. Select a sport or activity that provides exercise and cardio results and participate daily, or routinely on a frequent basis. Once the habit is established it becomes so much easier to stay the course. Cross training or a change of activity can often get you through an injury or illness.”

Courtesy Carol Duncan

Carol Duncan, 72, Basketball, Pickleball

“My mother told me, from a very young age, to always stay fit and trim because as you get older it is much harder to do. I have heeded her advice and am still enjoying and loving playing basketball and recently, pickleball.”

Courtesy Howard Hall

Howard Hall, 95, Track and Field, Swimming, Bowling, Horseshoes, Shuffleboard, Table Tennis

“Unless you have actual pain or physical impairment, you should always try to do a little more than what you feel like you want to do. Competing in Senior Games has kept me fit. It’s a means of making me do my exercises. I don’t want to look foolish out there so it drives me to stay in good shape.”

Courtesy Don Hoeppner

Don Hoeppner, 85, Basketball, Horseshoes, Shuffleboard, Softball, Swimming, Tennis, Track and Field

“You’ve got to pray a lot, eat good and exercise daily. But I guess my number one tip is ‘Don’t eat too much.’ When you eat out, they just pile it on you. They want to charge you more for it. So when the meal comes, divide it so you can eat half there, and take home half.”

Courtesy Bill Altman

Bill Altman, 86, Softball, Track and Field, Golf

“I want to know who made up ‘The Old Fogey Rule.’ There’s no reason for people in their ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and up to give up sports. There’s always something you can do. I say keep fit and stay active physically and mentally if you want to grow old well. Mental and physical fitness go together. That’s the secret I think.”