Beyond Your Years with Luis Martinez

Keeping Fit to Embrace Life

How important is fitness for seniors? The National Institutes of Health have studied this question extensively: “Studies have shown that exercise provides many health benefits and that older adults can gain a lot by staying physically active. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging.” (Read more here).

Pretty compelling, right? But what does it take to get fit? How do you get started? 

Over the years, I’m sure you’ve discovered some activities that you like more than others. Maybe you like something active and with friends, like Pickleball or platform tennis. Or maybe you just like walking around the block, or in the park (walking your pup is a great form of exercise, with the added value of keeping your senses aware of what’s going on around you). There are a myriad of options with many levels of intensity, from chair yoga or Tai Chi in your home to bowling leagues or Triathlons (swim, bike, and run competition). 

Staying fit can take many forms. In my case, I started downhill skiing at age 42 so I could accompany my daughter on school trips to the Pocono Mountains. Some years later a physician friend persuaded me to try road cycling, so I used my daughter’s girly bike to see if I would really like it. And I sure did! I bought men’s racing bike. Then I learned to swim more efficiently and, in my 50’s, got all the gear necessary to compete in Olympic distance triathlons (1 mile swim, 25 mile bike and 6 mile run). I admit, that’s a bit excessive as I had to train 6 days a week for it, but I just love competitive events.

Kung Fu

Luis with his son, practicing Kung Fu

Then, for seven years I’ve trained in martial arts (Kung Fu) and achieved my Black Belt at age 65. In warm weather I like running outdoors and playing tennis. But my favorite athletic event which I’ve been doing since my early 20’s is sports car racing. I’m still very active as a racing track instructor. Driving a race car requires stamina, quick reflexes and situational awareness to handle lateral g-forces and high steering loads on tight, bumpy racetracks.

Don’t judge yourself by your chronological age. My friend, Dolly, now in her 80’s, swims laps at the YMCA pool every day, and also does yoga, Pilates and lifts weights. Dolly is a Master’s Swimming competitor with a box full of medals from local, state, and national competitions.


Mami, 98, on her twice daily walk

My mother will be 99 years old in a few weeks. Mami lives in her own house in Miami; she has caregivers who help her around the house. A physical therapist comes three times a week to assess her fitness and adjust her exercise routine. Mami walks accompanied through the neighborhood at least twice a day. During her walks she enjoys all the tropical flowers, sunshine, and fresh air in south Florida.

The month of May has the designation of Older Americans Month, and on Wednesday, May 25 (Senior Health and Fitness Day), local organizations throughout the country will host senior-related health and fitness events at many venues. Some fitness organizations have developed well-studied exercise programs for seniors. For example, the YMCA of Greater Rochester has many group exercise classes under its Silver Sneakers program. As a matter of fact, on May 23-27, they will allow seniors who are not members to use the nearest Y facility and then they can join without a joining fee. On Wednesday, May 25 everyone is welcome to attend the 11:00 a.m. Silver Sneakers class (at the Southeast Branch).

Now it’s time to make a list! Can you sit down and list the physical activities you like the most? Remember, as you think of what you want to do for fitness, make it varied, make it simple, make it social—make it fun!

Luis Martinez is a guest blogger for St. John’s. He is an active senior that likes to observe and write about how people work at their careers, guide their businesses, strengthen their families, stay physically fit and mentally sharp, and race their sports cars. Luis habla español. Follow Luis on Twitter @BeyondYourYears, or email

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