Fitness tips for seniors from a 96-year-old swimmer

Judy Young is a force to be reckoned with in the pool. This year alone, he won seven first-place medals and set six age-group records in the seven events he competed in, including the 50-, 100- and 200-yard backstroke and the 50-, 100-, 200-, and the 500-yard freestyle.

But Yang is not just any athlete. Born in 1926, he is a 96-year-old swimmer who doesn’t let his age stop him from winning gold or setting new records at the YMCA National Swim Meet.

Yang tells us that she loved swimming from an early age. “My boys eventually joined me in the swim lanes, and at one point we were on the same team and competed together,” she says. Although she has been swimming for more than half a century, she began doing so competitively in the late 80s, qualifying locally and eventually nationally. “And I haven’t stopped since,” she reveals.

Today, she says she swims regularly at her local YMCA, noting that she volunteered at the Y for years and was secretary to the executive director from 1971 to 1987. “I go to the YMCA twice a week to swim, in addition to swimming competitively through YMCA leagues,” she says. “My focus is freestyle and backstroke, and I’m preparing to compete in the 2023 Senior Games—nationals are in Pittsburgh this year.”

How did he keep going at such a high level? Luckily for us, she shares her top five tips for a long, fit life.

1. Do some physical exercise every day

As the saying goes: keep moving to stay moving. “Staying active is an absolute must,” says Young. “I recently had surgery and the doctor told me that I was able to recover so quickly because I lead a very active and healthy lifestyle.”

2. Alternate between aerobic and strength workouts—and remember to rest

Being active doesn’t mean you have to follow a strict workout plan every day. Young says that making time for aerobic exercise (such as swimming, walking, cycling and rowing) as well as strength exercise (such as weight lifting) makes for the best fitness-focused lifestyle.

Don’t force yourself to work seven days a week, though. “My key to avoiding injury is to stay active but be patient with recovery,” Young said. He says he was able to bounce back from a hip replacement in 2019 by diligently following his physical therapy program and waited to return to swimming until he got the green light from his PT.

3. Exercise outside if the weather permits – preferably by walking

Regardless of your age, Yang proves that regular hot girl walks can be beneficial. In addition to boosting cardio health, getting your workout outdoors boosts your vitamin D levels, which can do wonders for your mood—especially during the cold winter months.

4. Don’t forget about mental well-being

You don’t just have to worry about your body to stay fit as you age. “Strengthen your mind by playing cards, reading or doing puzzles,” says Yang.

(Looking for inspo? Common practice and piecework puzzles have excellent options that double as artwork and coffee table displays.)

5. Enjoy the process

Try as you might, you can’t beat yourself up over a fitter lifestyle. If you hate the process, it’s unlikely you’ll stick with it. This is why Young stresses the importance of finding an activity you enjoy.

“My biggest piece of advice to any swimmer, or anyone who wants to swim, is that you have to enjoy it,” she says. “Swimming is great, not only because it’s easy on the joints, but because it provides the best combination of aerobic and general exercise. It all comes down to my lifelong love of swimming and being active – I keep doing it because I enjoy it.”

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