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13 Influential Seniors in Health and Fitness

Mark Huntsman
By Mark HuntsmanAugust 20, 2014

Staying healthy and active as we age can be challenging, but some seniors continue to be influential to health and fitness well into their golden years.

There are many people who have made a contribution to the world of health and fitness, but few are as inspiring as those who continue to stay active as they age.

From Suzanne Somers to Richard Simmons — read on to learn more about the top influential seniors in health and fitness today.

1. Suzanne Somers

At 67 years old and 37 years removed from her first appearance as the hilariously ditzy Chrissy Snow on Three’s Company,SuzanneSomers might reasonably be expected to be retired and resting comfortably on her laurels at this point. However, Somers is still regularly active, even though it’s also been decades since she debuted as the TV spokesperson for the “Thigh Master” which launched her health and fitness-focused career. Her most recent book, “I’m Too Young for This!” came out in 2013). Wikipedia notes that Somers has “been criticized for her views on some medical subjects.”

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2. Jane Fonda

Tina TurnerAt 76, Jane Fonda can accurately be described in many ways, including “actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model and fitness guru.” She has been not only the star but the producer of a large number of successful exercise videos, and continues to dedicate herself to staying healthy and fit to this day. Her second memoir, Prime Time, was published in 2011. To take a look at the health and fitness pages of Fonda’s website, click here.

3. Tina Turner

74 years old and fit as they come, she has been an icon for decades, yet many people who admire her often don’t know that Tina Turner is her stage name, and that she was born as Anna Mae Bullock. Because she’s continued to tour internationally throughout the years, and has stayed so fit, she’s famous with audiences almost as much for her high-energy stage presence than for her fiery vocals. Turner recently became a Swiss citizen — she’s lived with her husband Erwin Bach in a suburb of Zurich since 1994.

4. Sylvester Stallone

While he’s well-known for many of the iconic roles he’s played, for many of us, Sylvester Stallone will always be Rocky Balboa first. Which is fitting, since Rocky made his first appearance as a chiseled boxer back in the 70’s, and the 68-year-old Stallone is still playing well-muscled characters to this day — he has a starring role in The Expendables 3, out this summer.

5. Chuck Norris

Regardless of whether you may agree with his ardent politics, we can all agree that Chuck Norris is a 74-year-old who is still kicking butt when it comes to staying fit. He’s not only an Air Force veteran who has starred in a bevy of action movies and had a long run as the TV star of Walker, Texas Ranger, but he’s also the martial arts and fitness guru who established his own school of martial arts, called Chun Kuk Do.

6. Jack LaLanne

Before he passed away at 96 years old, Jack LaLanne spent nearly a century devoting himself to bodybuilding and fitness. He was an early and lifelong proponent of the idea that our health as a society depends on maintaining individual, physical health. As he himself wrote, “Physical culture and nutrition is the salvation of America.” After LaLanne died, Arnold Schwarzenegger described him as “an apostle for fitness.”

7. Dr. Bob Delmonteque

Born as Mike Diaks, Bob Delmonteque played an incredibly influential role in the health and fitness of many Hollywood stars before he passed away near the end of 2011 at the age of 85. As Bill Hubner notes on the Facebook page honoring Delmonteque, “For all the importance that Jack LaLanne had for public awareness of exercise, Bob Delmonteque was just as important for really pushing conditioning exercise, which was really cardio exercise as we refer to it today.” He was the fitness guru for many movie stars of yore, including Clark Gable and John Wayne, as well as Marilyn Monroe, with whom he became close friends. As you can see, from the picture, Delmonteque kept a miraculously sculpted physique well into his 80s.

8. Dr. Andrew Weil

In the years since getting his M.D. from Harvard Medical School, the 72-year-old Dr. Andrew Weil has written or co-written nine books, as well as founded the Center for Integrative Medicine at University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona, for which he currently serves as director. As the New York Open Center said when it honored him, Weil has made “extraordinary contributions to public awareness of integrative and complementary medicine.” In practice, Weil’s philosophy on health and fitness has played a significant role in helping people of all ages to find ways to take charge of their personal fitness and overall health.

9. Mark Bittman

“Here’s the thing,” writes 64-year-old accomplished food and cooking writer Mark Bittman in a piece called “Finding Your Comfort Food,” “In my professional life of finding, replicating, sometimes even ‘creating’ recipes, my palate is up for anything. But when the work hat comes off, I fall into old and completely beloved habits.” In describing how he cooks when he’s not working — “pasta and fish and a vegetable, or pasta and salad and a vegetable, or salad and fish and a vegetable, or pasta and salad and fish and a vegetable” — Bittman gives us a picture of how our comfort foods can themselves be part of a healthy and fit lifestyle for all ages.

10. Dr. Marion Nestle

A huge part of the challenge in watching what you eat is keeping track of the calories as you consume them. As senior citizen scientist and nutrition expert Dr. Marion Nestle writes in her most recent book, “Why Calories Count, “You cannot see, taste or smell them. The only way you can tell whether you are getting enough or too many is to observe their effects on your belt size or your weight on a scale.” Nestle has made a long and acclaimed career of promoting fitness through healthy eating. For people of all ages, diet is fundamental to fitness, not least, as she notes, because “It’s very, very difficult to use up calories through physical activity.”

11. Deepak Chopra

Living a long, healthy and happy life isn’t only about traditional fitness — that is to say, eating well and exercising regularly — it’s also about philosophical and spiritual fitness. Or, as 66-year-old Deepak Chopra says, “the mind-body relationship.” As the chief of staff of New England Memorial Hospital in the 1970s and 80s, Chopra had a long career in traditional Western medicine before leaving his post to focus on the lifelong physical and mental benefits of meditation, and found the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. See his website here.

12. Richard Simmons

Born in 1948, Richard Simmons has been a fitness personality and presence in our pop culture for the majority of his 66 years. His first gym, called Slimmons, helped countless LA residents slim down and get fit, and it did so at a time when it was far more rare to cater and market directly to overweight people. In both his exercise studios and videos, Simmons emphasizes “healthy eating in proper portions and enjoyable exercise in a supportive atmosphere.”

13. Tao Porchon-Lynch

At 95 years young, Tao Porchon-Lynch is a master yoga teacher who has more than 70 years of practicing yoga under her belt. She’s also taught yoga students and trained teachers for over 45 years — and she’s done so in the U.S., France and India. Incredibly, her long career teaching yoga was preceded by another career as a movie actress in Europe and in America, where she was under contract by MGM in the 40s and 50s. Described by many as ayouthful95, Tao “brings a delightful, childlike love of life and nature to all that she does.”

Role Models for Building a Future of Fitness

Whether we’re talking about Jack LaLanne’s decades-long dedication to bodybuilding or the keen eye and noise for food of Mark Bittman or the three quarters of a century Tao Porchon-Lynch has spent practicing and teaching yoga, all these senior fitness personalities live by the understanding that physical fitness is paramount in marinating a long and healthy life.

Which makes it interesting to contemplate: How can we channel our own passions into a pursuit of lifelong fitness?

Which influential health and fitness seniors above have impacted your life? Do you have any seniors you’d like to add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Mark Huntsman
Mark Huntsman
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