16 Seniors Who Are in Better Shape Than You

Sister Madonna Buder, 'The Iron Nun'


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Sister Madonna Buder, 'The Iron Nun'

Serious Seniors

We expect a professional runner, a swimmer or a gymnast to be in better shape than us. But what about otherwise average seniors? These 16 seniors transform the way we think about aging — and what's perhaps even more impressive about these active golden agers is that most of them started their fitness regimen late in life.

David Walters

David Walters | 64 Years Old

This 64-year-old marathoner, one of the quickest 60-plus runners on the planet, has no plans to slow down. In 2015, Illinois airline pilot David Walters ran the Chicago Marathon, then turned around and ran the New York City Marathon in 2:47:27 — only two minutes slower. He keeps in shape for double marathons by with cross training, the elliptical, pushing himself with a series of runs varying from 11 to 58 miles, a high-protein diet, and a painstaking recovery regimen.


Eiko | 67 Years Old

Famous as part of the modern dance duo Eiko and Koma, 67-year-old Eiko began performing alone when Koma — her husband — injured his ankle. She continued on with a busy schedule of teaching and performing what The New York Times called "startlingly slow" works demanding great physical control, including hours-long works in November commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum. Though she never imagined herself as an "old performer," she realized she couldn't afford to wait to start her solo endeavor.

Pat Gallant-Charette
Courtesy of Pat Gallant-Charette

Pat Gallant-Charette | 68 Years Old

Some 20 years ago Pat Gallant-Charette's son inspired her to try an open-water swim. Her new sport started slow, taking on lakes and bays and building her endurance as she battled freezing water and jellyfish. Then at 60 she set a world record for oldest woman to swim from Catalina Island to the mainland of California; and in 2017 she achieved her goal and became the oldest woman to swim the 21-mile English Channel.

Gary Linden

Gary Linden | 69 Years Old

You're never too old to get stoked. In 2015, at 65, Gary Linden scored his first big wave at Jaws, the site of the Big Wave Tour's Pe'ahi Challenge. Despite health issues such as an arthritic hip and heart problems, this senior paddled out and caught a wave — a really big wave. His family is used to his dangerous hobby, since he's a longtime surfer who helps lead the tour and even makes surfboards.

Kittie Weston-Knauer

Kittie Weston-Knauer | 70 Years Old

BMX racing isn't a sport you would equate with aging, but Kittie Weston-Knauer, the oldest female BMX bicycle racer in the country, might make you think differently. Weston-Knauer was introduced to the sport by her son when she was 40, and had to borrow his helmet and bike her first, tentative time out. After riding for a while, she got the hang of it, and even breaking her neck on the course hasn't deterred her.

Cheryl Tiegs

Cheryl Tiegs | 71 Years Old

At 71 years old, former supermodel and fitness advocate Cheryl Tiegs is still in great shape. After gracing the covers of Time and the 1978 Sports Illustrated swimsuit Issue (in a mesh swimsuit that was way ahead of its time), she stayed active with an aerobic interval training fitness regimen and remains seemingly just as firm on beauty norms: When approached on a red carpet in 2016, she disapproved of plus-size models, quoting Dr. Oz as saying "your waist should be under 35 inches."

Douglas Dunn

Douglas Dunn | 76 Years Old

Douglas Dunn still performs in his SoHo loft and elsewhere with his dance company, as recently as July when he performed "The Let Go" at New York's Park Avenue Armory. Dunn, a veteran of Merce Cunningham's troupe, says he dances to "demonstrate the great facility and ridiculous limits of the unaccoutred human body." His company is booked solid and Dunn isn't about to put away his dancing shoes anytime soon.

Jeannie Epper
Courtesy of tmdb.org

Jeannie Epper | 78 Years Old

Remember the infamous vine-swinging scene in "Romancing The Stone," when Kathleen Turner's character traverses a deep ravine? How about Lynda Carter's tremendous leaps in television's "Wonder Woman"? Both were actually performed by Jeannie Epper, considered by many to be the greatest female stuntwoman. Hit by moving cars, thrown through windows and pushed out of tall buildings, Epper has done it all and is still working, including in 2015's "Hot Pursuit" with Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara. Now 78, Epper stays in shape by running and walking.

Ernestine Shepherd
Courtesy of ernestineshepherd.net

Ernestine Shepherd | 81 Years Old

At 81 years of age, Ernestine Shepherd is in seriously great shape. Crowned the world's oldest competitive female bodybuilder in 2011 by Guinness World Records, this octogenarian is fiercely toned. But Shepherd wasn't always a fitness buff — she started working out at 56. Her exhausting fitness routine begins at 2:30 a.m. when she walks 10 miles to the gym, trains for several hours, then leads classes. She eats five to six smalls meals a day and keeps her protein up by drinking 8 ounces of liquid egg whites.

Frances Woofenden

Frances Woofenden | 84 Years Old

Frances Woofenden is a fearless, strong, and quick wave rider, though she didn't start water-skiing until she was 50. Before her days on skis, she was your average, ordinary grandmother. Today she's got so many medals she would have trouble carrying them all at one time. No. 1 in her age group, Woofenden says, "As long as my joints ... are pain free, I'll continue with the sport."

Sister Madonna Buder, 'The Iron Nun'

Sister Madonna Buder, 'The Iron Nun' | 89 Years Old

After church hours, Sister Madonna Buder is running, biking, and swimming her way through Ironman triathlons — more than 40 combining a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. She started running when she was 47, inspired by a priest who ran, and in 2005 earned the nickname "Iron Nun" by becoming the oldest woman to compete in the Hawaii Ironman. She has pushed for races and triathlons to open up to older age groups, and continues to inspire people of all ages (not to mention Nike, which featured her in an ad) with words of encouragement such as "your effort in itself is a success."

Johanna Quaas

Johanna Quaas | 93 Years Old

The 93-year-old started out as a gymnast and competed in her first competition way back in 1934. She became a coach, but the love of the sport prompted her to return to gymnastics at 57, and she's been balancing on beams since. Images of Quass holding herself parallel on the balance beam were so unbelievable they were thought to be photoshopped, until a video of her performing in 2012 went viral, drawing more than 10 million views. Quass is the oldest competitive gymnast in the world.

Betty White

Betty White | 97 Years Old

Did you really think we'd leave her off this list? She may not be a marathoner, but Betty White must be doing something right: She's as active as ever. Whether you know her by her Emmy-winning role as Sue Ann Nivens on "Mary Tyler Moore," as Rose Nylund on "The Golden Girls" or her recent stint on "Hot In Cleveland," you've seen her work. What's her secret to longevity? To simply enjoy life — "Accentuate the positive, not the negative" — and stick a strict diet of vodka and hot dogs, "probably in that order," as she told Parade.

Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins
The Fumble/youtube.com

Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins | 103 Years Old

You'll probably find this great-grandmother from Louisiana tending to her garden and bird-watching, but running has turned into a pretty good sideline: In 2017 she set a world record for the 100-meter dash in 40.12 seconds, the fastest time for her age group — helping Julia Hawkins earn the nickname, "Hurricane." The oldest female competitor in USA Track and Field history started running only at 100, encouraged by her children to stay active.

Ida Keeling
Courtesy of healthypast100dot.org

Ida Keeling | 104 Years Old

She's 104 and still breaking records running marathons. This Manhattan resident has a painful tale behind her immersion into fitness, though. Her memoir, "Can't Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race Against Time" tells the story of her fierce independence through the Great Depression and civil rights movement, then her severe depression after losing both her sons to murder. Encouraged by her daughter, Ida Keeling put on running shoes at the age of 67 to chase away her sorrows, and has since set more than one world record by age group.

Stanislaw Kowalski

Stanislaw Kowalski | 109 Years Old

Stanislaw Kowalski didn't start running until he turned 92 — though before that he biked or walked for exercise — but started training at six miles a day and is now earning medals and setting world records, including for running the 100 meter in 32.79 seconds  at 104. He advocates never going to the doctor, and advises folks not to eat at night. If that's really all it takes, sign us up (though the occasional checkup still seems like a good idea).