A few days a week, Dr. Margaret Phillips-Steinam plays an hour of tennis
, does 30 minutes of cardio
along with strength training
. By anyone's standards, this would be considered a hefty dose of exercise
. But this 86-year-old retired internist isn't just anyone. In fact, for her, this is just an average routine that increases when she's in training for the two triathlons
she's been competing in every year since she was 60. So That's Fit asked her: What's your secret to your vitality?
"Being physically active makes me feel good and that's very motivating
," she said. "Naturally, I know exercise
is healthy for a person but I also do it out of love for specific sports and the thrill of competing. For those who dislike exercise
of any kind, I've never been able to understand them. I find it hard to fathom that knowing about the ill-effects of a sedentary lifestyle and the associated obesity
isn't enough to persuade people," says the 103-pound, 5-foot, 3-inch athlete. "But if it's not then they have to find the will power to just do it. Sometimes joining up with a group activity
or having a workout partner
can be a good catalyst for those who need an extra push."
Admittedly, one reason for the doctor's enduring athleticism is that she's never suffered a serious injury. While she says part of that's good luck, she believes it's also due to her dedication to all three forms of fitness: aerobic, strength training and stretching. "Not any one should be ignored," she said. She also swears by her exercise bike and says everyone should have one. "It's the easiest way to fulfill your daily aerobic requirement," said Phillips-Steinam. "It's right there at home so you can't find an excuse not to hop on. Plus you can read while you're doing it."
Dr. Phillips-Steinam has always been passionate about avoiding saturated fats
, touting that dictum to her patients throughout her professional career. And most recently, she's been eating a lot of fish loaded with omega-3 fatty acids
because "none of us gets enough. It's a great protein
and it promotes brain health and cardiovascular fitness," she said. For all her self-discipline, it was comforting to learn this dedicated, energetic octogenarian does have a sweet tooth. To stay on track, she recommends maintaining a careful food diary.
"I try to avoid cake and cookies and I could eat a pint of ice cream a day but I've given it up," she said. "I know a large abundance of sugar is not a good thing."
Last year, the Wisconsin native competed in the Trek Women's Triathlon Series
in Pleasant Prairie that included a half-mile open water swim, a 12-mile bike and a 3.1-mile run to the finish. "I was the oldest among 70,000 women competing," she said, "and that's a statistic I'm proud of."
Thinking about competing in a triathlon? Here's how to get started.
Also learn about stay-young supplements