With the summer Olympics underway, it got me wondering about past Olympians and how they are faring (aside from the former Bruce Jenner, who has had plenty of attention). What are these elite athletes doing to age well? And what can we learn from them?

In 1976, Wendy Boglioli and her relay teammates won gold in women’s swimming. According to Healthways Silver Sneakers Fitness, she continues to train in and out of the pool, often leaving much younger people in her wake. As a baby boomer moving into her older years, Boglioli says “I am going to do everything in my power to be as fit as I can, going forward.” Her attitude is about embracing exercise as something you want to do, rather than something you have to do.

This sentiment is echoed by another former Olympian: Dick Fosbury, the inventor of the “Fosbury Flop” a revolutionary high jump technique at the 1968 games. Fosbury states that one of his most important habits has been finding ways to have fun being active. “Fun is always an important part of it,” he says. “While you’re doing recreation, you are recreating yourself every day. I’m here to encourage people to continue what they’re doing, if they’re happy and getting some exercise,” Fosbury reported to Silver Sneakers Fitness.

More recently, 72-year-old Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan competed in the dressage event at the 2012 Olympic games.  As captured by Senior Living’s Dana Larsen, Hoketsu’s secret according to him is to “Have a good life, enjoy yourself and do the things that make you happy.” Hoketsu goes on to make an observation about aging gracefully. “It’s all about keeping yourself happy. The biggest motivation for me is to keep feeling that I am improving. If I feel I am getting worse than before, then I will stop.”

Are you hearing a theme here? Find an activity that makes you happy and keeps you moving and improving. Community Thread’s Older Adult program offers a number of exercise options including a weekly aerobics class taught by a Silver Sneakers certified instructor. People with Humana and UCare health plans may be eligible to attend for free and should check with their plan. Older adults interested in an exhilarating workout can attend a free Zumba® Gold class on September 19, 21, 26 & 28 from 3:00 -3:45pm at the Stillwater Senior Center location. Benefits of this class focus on all elements of fitness: cardiovascular, muscular conditioning, flexibility and balance.

While your chances of becoming an Olympian are slim, it is never too late to begin exercising. And it may save you money as well: people 50 years and older who started exercising only 90 minutes a week saved an average of $2,200 per year in medical costs, according to HealthPartners Research Foundation.

So take the advice of these former Olympians and exercise on a regular basis as you age. You may not win any medals for this good habit but the long term payoff will be worth gold.

By Sally Anderson