Superagers – how to stay mentally and physically fit even at a very advanced age

Published 26.08.2017

How to become a Superager

More and more so-called „superagers“ (this term was coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) stay healthy, look much younger than they are and don`t behave as the society may expect them to do (and I always believed this was absolutely stupid).

But what makes these superagers tick and which activities will increase chances of remaining mentally and physically sharp into old age? There seems to be a simple answer: work hard at something. Performing difficult tasks – physical or mental – seems to be the solution. Hard work makes you feel bad in the moment. You need to leave your comfort zone, do something until it hurts. We need mental effort or physical exertion to keep our brains away from getting older.

Superagers – a few Examples

Olga Kotelka was a great example for a very fit superager. She started with athletics at the age of 77 (!) and achieved 30 world records. During the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney/Australia, this Canadian superager broke a world record for her age group (90–95 years) in the hammer throw (5.64 metre) and the 100 metre race (23.95 seconds). It was only her fourth time competing in the World competition. Olga also carried the Olympic torch in Vancouver in 2010 before the XXI Olympic Winter Games. Her muscle fibers were studied at a Neurological Institute in Montreal. At the age of 91, here muscle fibres were found to be remarkably lacking in the mitochondrial decay expected in someone over 65.

Tao Porchon-Lynch has made into the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest yoga teacher in the world. At the age of 98, she continues to give five to eight yoga lessons per week in New York.

Robert Marchand is 105 and has just marked a new record in biking – he achieved 22.57 km in one hour. He only started biking when he retired and trains every day.

Professor Wildor Hollman, 92, is Germany`s oldest teacher at the sports college in Cologne. He is a doctor and has received 34 awards for medical research. Hollman works out in a gym twice a week, is learning to dance rumba and climbs 200 staircases every day.

A cool Scientist researching Superagers

Aga Burzynska has a PhD in Psychology (Humboldt University, Berlin), MSc in Neuroscience (University of Goettingen), and BSc in Biotechnology. She has lived in four countries, speaks four languages, and sailed the Atlantic. In her free time, she works on her own brain reserve by exploring the Colorado outdoors on feet, skis, bike, or by hanging on a rope somewhere in the Poudre Canyon. „I want to help people age gracefully (both body and mind) and maintain their independence and life satisfaction as long as possible. In the future, I hope to study climbers' brain, as an extension to my current study on professional dancers. I want to get better a understanding of the brain plasticity potential in late life. I am interested in wearable tech devices, intelligent housing, adult playgrounds, tech for the older citizens, and more.“

Photo: Aga Burzynska

Here you will find more about the work of Aga (Assistant Professor at Colorado State University) and her colleagues whose aim is to help people live longer and healthier lives. Read more about their exciting work here.

Tips from a Fitness Coach

Says Kevin Heuckeroth, fitness coach at the renowned Villa Stéphanie at Brenner`s Parkhotel & Spa, one of Germany`s best hotels and probably the number one when it comes to wellness coaching: „By practicing sports, both brain halfs are demanded and pushed. Sports keeps us young since our cardiovascular system and our muscles are always trained again. As physical activity is the nutrition for our bones, they remain healthy and stabile for a long time. For our late life, there is no better precaution than sports, according to your ability.“

Photo: Fitness Coach Kevin Heuckeroth

Today I saw a young, maybe 16 year old boy at the gym – heavily overweight. He was going very slowly on the bike, continuously playing with his smartphone. When going back to the lockers, he took the lift – just for one floor. Probably this kid will not become a superager.

Make it better than him. Learn a new language or to master a musical instrument. Get physical. A few weeks ago, I added another day at the gym to make it up to 4 sessions per week. I try to increase weights and do stuff that I don`t like too much. Remember – you should leave your comfort zone from time to time to become a superager (and to be fit in younger years)!

Some time ago, I have published an article about "better aging" which you will find here.

Photo: Learning a new language will keep your brain fit!

Photo: Leave your comfort zone from time to time - do things you have never done before.


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