5 Lessons Learned from the Fittest Old Men and Women on Earth

Find out how you can get as fit as possible as you age, and the longevity and anti-aging fitness secrets of some of the fittest old men and women on earth.

Ben Greenfield
6-minute read
Episode #283

A few days ago, I was reading an article on Vice.com, “The Healthiest Old Person on the Planet Explains How to Stay in Shape,” which introduces a man named Charles Eugster, who is 96-years-old.

Charles is a decorated British sprinter. He holds world records in the 200m (indoor) and 400m (outdoor) sprints, as well as British records in the 60m (indoor), 100m (outdoor), and 200m (outdoor). This is all pretty impressive, considering that most guys his age can barely walk across the street (if they’re even still alive!). But that’s not all.

Charles is also a body-builder, a public speaker, a writer, a rower, a wakeboarder, an entrepreneur, and a fashion designer, planning his own line in elderly couture. He’s even claimed that he’s witnessed some of his white and gray hairs turn brown! While I’m skeptical of that last claim, I do know one thing: he’s certainly cracked the code on how to stay fit as you age.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart, since I not only want to live a long time, but I want to look as good as possible doing it and be able to have my brain and body work as optimally as possible, even if modern society thinks I should be sitting in a rocking chair in a care facility watching Seinfeld re-runs.

In Can Seniors Get Stronger?, I address the common belief among exercise enthusiasts that, at around 50-60 years old, people simply lose the ability to get stronger.

While it is indeed correct that you lose muscle as you age (a process called sarcopenia), new research also proves you can stave off this decline—and quite significantly. And in How To Look Good Naked And Live A Long Time, I detail a research-based exercise program that allows you to also do things like maintain mitochondrial energy producing capacity, keep metabolism elevated, increase muscular endurance and lactic acid buffering capacity, and, well, “look good naked” as you age.

But when it comes to defying aging and staying as fit as possible as you age, lab-based science is one thing and personal in-the-trenches, real-world experience is quite another thing. So I find it fascinating to study some of the fittest old people on the face of the planet to see exactly what they’re doing.

Let’s delve into Charles Eugster’s secrets, along with four other extremely fit people who are, well, not exactly young anymore:

#1: Charles Eugster – “Eat Real Food”

Sure, Charles lifts weights, which is crucial for maintaining muscle mass and hormones as you age, and has even been shown to decrease the rate at which telomeres shorten (which is associated with accelerated aging), but regarding his diet, he says in his interview with Esquire:

“Variety is key. I start every day with a protein shake because, as you get older, your protein synthesis no longer functions as well. I avoid sugar and eat lots of meat, especially fat. I've been on a fat trip lately. Fat! Piles of fat. Yet, I was in a supermarket the other day and was perplexed to find yogurt with zero fat. What on earth is that? The idea of the nutrition pyramid where, at the top, is a little fat and meat, and at the bottom a lot of carbohydrates, is, excuse me, bullshit. Humans are so unbelievably stupid that we have begun to tinker with food. Our theories of nutrition have resulted in a pandemic of obesity. Can you imagine a hunter-gatherer enjoying a low-fat yogurt? Let me tell you this, too: I read a report recently which said that a fatty diet also increases your libido.”

So there you have it. It’s highly unlikely you can eat modern frankenfuel foods and still live a long time and look good doing it!

#2: Laird Hamilton – “Learn New Stuff”

In my recent interview with big-wave surfer and 52-year-old Laird Hamilton, who is still just as spry and quick-moving as the 20-something surfers he puts to shame, Laird highlights one of his best anti-aging secrets: constantly learn new stuff.

Check out this short video that my friend and fellow fitness enthusiast Dustin Maher shot of Laird explaining exactly how he “never grows old”:

Laird’s garage, where we filmed the video, is a personal testament to this philosophy, and is chock full of new toys that Laird has invented to surf waves in different ways, along with skis, snowboards, jetskis, balance devices, and all different tools to challenge his body in new ways as he forces his brain and muscles to maintain or build new neurons to learn all these new skills. People often ask me why I delve into everything from archery to snowboarding to spearfishing to obstacle racing to kickboxing to ukulele and beyond, and this is one of the biggest reasons why!


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.

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