Exercising Through the Decades

For someone my age (in my 70s--VERY early 70s), there has been a wide variety of exercise options over the years. Ironically, perhaps, I first began to think about starting some type of exercise program in the 1970's.

Those were my child bearing years—three children all born that decade—and I’m sure a lot of you who are reading this will understand and commiserate.

You Don’t Know Jack…or Maybe You Do

In my 20’s, I had lots of energy, so the thought of starting a habit of exercise was not a scary one. I had heard of a man named Jack LaLanne, who was one of the first people to talk about healthy diet and exercise. His stuff was mostly calisthenics—you know, lots of hard stretches and crunches, toe touches and twisting, jumping jacks and pushups—which a lot of people nowadays use as a warm-up to aerobic exercises. He was enthusiastic and charming about it, so it was fun to exercise along with him.

He did this thing like the Romper Room show used to do, remember? She would peer into the “magic mirror” and see Susie, Sally, Tommy, Billy, etc. watching from home. I always wanted her to call MY name so bad, which never happened. Jack would look into the camera and pretend to see someone at home doing the exercise wrong or not doing it at all, sitting in a chair in their living room. What a hoot!

You MOST Definitely Remember Jane

In my 30’s, after giving birth to three children, I wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about exercising, but I needed it more than I did in the previous decade. In the 80’s, Jane Fonda came out with her videos that included the calisthenics, along with step aerobics. She was in her 40’s at that time, and her body was unbelievably fit and sexy. People like me rushed to purchase those videos and follow along at home, hoping against hope that OUR bodies could look like hers. AS IF!

If you have never seen any of those videos, she had several people in it with her doing the exercises, all with bodies just like hers. Some of them were doing the “beginner” version, and others doing the advanced version with her. (By the way, she is in her 80’s now and is still gorgeous and fit.) I followed this habit for months, and I’m sure I was more fit afterwards, if not more sexy.

Dancing with the Oldies

In my 40’s (the 90’s decade), Richard Simmons came along with “Dancing with the Oldies,” which appealed to me because of the oldies part. It brought back memories of my youth, dancing my time away as if I were 16 again. I had to get over the fact that the leader wore tiny short shorts and tank t-shirts and was silly to the extreme. He always had several people doing the exercise dances with him too, and most of them were my size or larger — not fitness models — so there was something comforting about that.

Something else I did during this time was try classes at the gym with real-life coaches pushing us to “feel the pain” and remind us, “No pain, no gain.” We exhausted ourselves together. I am competitive by nature, so I was never going to stop before anyone else did. Luckily, my heart didn’t stop either.

50, and The Exercise Hell That FollowED

That brings me to my 50’s (00’s decade). That’s when strength training was encouraged, along with aerobics, especially for people my age because of bone density. I went all in, joining a gym with every modern-day torture machine imaginable. I got my personal trainer who introduced me to all of them, showing me the correct way to use them. I faithfully recorded my times and machine settings and reps (repetitions for any neophytes). There were machines to strengthen arms, legs, backs…pretty much every inch of your body.

The stair-master type was my personal downfall. I think that’s the only furniture in hell. If so, I will forever try to lead a sin-free life. I went to that torture chamber faithfully for a full year, at least three times a week. My husband told me I’d get to the point of enjoying it and eventually miss it if I didn’t go. Well, that did not happen.

Everyone said that I would feel the benefit of it and eventually be so glad that I did it…well, that didn’t happen either. Since that was obviously not for me, I moved to yoga. A friend from church, who was about 15 years older than I was, served as my encourager. She had been doing yoga for years; she was healthy, fit, and spry. When I went to my first class, she was the best one there, besides the teacher. There were people there decades younger than she was, who were struggling with the positions. So, I gave it a try, again for a full year, twice a week.

My friend said that I would get to the point of enjoying it and miss it if I didn’t go…that didn’t happen. Everyone said that I would feel the benefit of it and be so glad that I did it…that didn’t happen either. (See a pattern here?) I sincerely hated every minute of yoga class. So, there I was in my 60’s, almost to the end of that decade. While I had always played tennis, my game–when I started back–was not what it used to be, so the exercise I get was less strenuous.


Here now, at 71, I still have tennis that isn’t terribly strenuous. However, I’m having fun, so that keeps me coming back. I have the ubiquitous smartwatch to keep track of my steps, of course—doesn’t everybody? On the days I play tennis, I relieve myself of the pressure of the 10,000 steps. Other days, I do put pressure on myself to get to the magic number.

In my younger years of tennis, I tried all those other exercises to strengthen my tennis game. Now, though, my thoughts are just to play the game for fun. Hopefully, my walking 10,000 steps while listening to books on tape will be entertaining enough to keep me faithful. Okay, okay, I know that exercising is important to my health. You’ll get no argument from me on that. While I don’t always enjoy it (or miss it), I do feel the benefit of those activities. So, don’t worry about me. I’m strapping my smartwatch to my wrist and/or picking up my racket. I’m it for the long haul. Competitors don’t quit.


About the Author
40 Years a Dieter is a sassy senior who was a state tennis champion for years in her 30s and 40s and can still hit the tennis court pretty hard. Having tried nearly every diet fad that was promoted in the 80s, 90s, and throughout the new millennium, she’s definitely dabbled in diet for most of her adult life.