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Gymnastics at 86! Not just aging gracefully, but setting a new benchmark

A feel-good video. She started gymnastics in her 50′s, and look what Johanna Quaas can do.

New research suggests the human body  contains remarkable plasticity.  It is constantly being rebuilt, and even weight training exercises help 90 year olds.

Quaas, below,  is redefining the art of aging gracefully.


Johanna Quaas, an 86-year-old who has just entered the record books as the world’s oldest gymnast.

Displaying astonishing balance, strength and flexibility, she performed routines on the floor and parallel bars that would put someone decades younger to shame.

I’ve been teaching exercise to seniors for four years now, and while those who attend my classes cannot begin to compare with the octogenarian gymnast – let’s face it, I can’t and I’m 50 years her junior – they are certainly proving that it’s never too late to start exercising.

Some estimates suggest that as much as half of the physical decline associated with old age may be due to a lack of activity. As we grow older, our health and fitness levels begin to decline. The cardiovascular and respiratory systems suffer age-related deterioration, leading to high blood pressure and reduced cardio function. Balance and co-ordination can become impaired as we age, with falls being the leading cause of injury-related hospitalisation among the over 65s.

In addition, bone density decreases markedly after the age of 50, with an estimated one in two women and one in five men over 50 suffering a bone fracture from osteoporosis. Sarcopenia, or muscle wasting, affects about 20 per cent of the population aged between 50 and 70, with the figure rising to 50 per cent of those over 80. Unchecked, it leads to a reduction in muscle strength and functionality, and can ultimately result in the sufferer becoming house-bound.

Johanna Quaas didn’t take up competitive gymnastics until she was in her 50s, but watching her cartwheel and perform handstands it’s difficult to believe.

Christen Pears is a personal trainer and Pilates instructor in Western Australia

Full story (possibly paywalled)

 

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42 comments to Gymnastics at 86! Not just aging gracefully, but setting a new benchmark

  • #
    Joe V.

    It proves you’re only as old as the woman you feel.


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    Betapug

    Tried unsucessfully to email this post but the “image verification” window shows only a red hyphen. I could not find a site issues button on the site


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    Barbara

    This is fantastic. Inspirational.


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    Roy Hogue

    It shows you what total concentration on what you’re doing can accomplish.

    Would that our leaders were as focused on what their jobs really are.


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    Mnafred

    Human adaptability is one of our greatest assets. Our physical and cognitive abilities flourish when challenged, wither when ignored.

    That’s one reason why this web site among others helps to save us from a fate worse than death – being kept in the dark while being fed bullschtick, the latter undoubtedly relied upon by former Nobel Laureate Michael Mann et al.


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  • #

    At 83 I’ve just taken up lawn bowls and Tai Chi. But my body isn’t working as well as this lady’s! Envy, envy!


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    llew Jones

    Perhaps the corollary of this is that we in the Western world retire from work far too early. I’ve lost count of the numbers of men who have appeared healthy up to 65 years then carked it very soon after retirement. Maybe its the feeling of uselessness that contributes to that when there is no adequate stimulating substitute.

    A job requiring a bit of physical activity supplemented with say daily brisk walking or other exercise and the intellectual stimulus that accompanies working full time may help guard against premature physical deterioration and mental decline.


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    • #
      Winston

      The desire to retire to the “good life” is understandable, made more so by the fact that most jobs have been made so relentlessly unpleasant by the egregious and overzealous intervention of the regulatory classes. Unfortunately retirement means a loss of intellectual and utilitarian capital which society can ill afford. Our failure as a society is epitomised by waste such as this. No matter what your age, ability, intellect or inclination everyone needs to find how they can contribute and be of use to society, and society needs to develop pathways to access this resource more effectively but lacks the will or the respect for the aged to do so. Ageism is one of the great “successes” of the left in the last 30 years, entrenching prejudice against the ideas of the elder in our social system, unless of course they are indigenous elders whose thoughts are considered sacrosanct.


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      • #
        KinkyKeith

        Hi Winston

        Great comment.

        Pathways are needed, not only for the older among us, but for many other groups who have been cut out of the

        mainstream by political correctness.

        Those trapped on social security need a “path” to help them develop self reliance and confidence;

        everyone can contribute something to the community at their own particular level of skill if the opportunity is made for them by a caring government.

        There is nothing more soul destroying than to have the politicians say: we see you are not good enough to contribute, but we will give you a regular income if you stay out of the way and vote for us.

        The present Ageism you speak of is a wedge that divides the community in the same way that social

        securityism does.

        KK :)


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      • #
        Len

        At a JP training seminar recently the attendees were told that when an Aboriginal calls you Old person, it is a mark of respect. We know that generally when a white person calls you “Old” is is usually aimed as an insult.
        We have boy Politicians of 30 years of age successfully white anting 63 year old long serving politicians.


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        Streetcred

        Tell me about it ! Ageism starts seriously at 50 and funnily enough is practised hardest by those around that age group. Why are they so afraid ? Australia is loosing educated and skilled people from the workforce, not from them leaving the country but because they are shut out by incompetent incumbents.


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        • #
          Andrew McRae

          Another sign of ageism is in consumer surveys. I remember several years ago browsing the SBS TV web site to see what was on. I had just turned 25 the day before. A box popped up asking if I wanted to participate in a survey of audience interests, and I clicked Yes.

          It asked a bunch of questions about which types of shows I watched, etc.
          Then the demographic question:

          Which age bracket are you in?
          A) Under 15.
          B) 15 to 17.
          C) 18 to 21.
          D) 22 to 24.
          E) 25 to 39. !!!
          F) 40 to 55.
          G) Over 55.

          I wailed at the options “OH NO, I only turned 25 yesterday and I’m 40 already!!”

          The marketing departments are merciless. If you have disposable income and are too young to know what to do with it, they are very interested. By the time you are over 25 you have begun to wise up to the ways of propaganda and peer pressure.
          I feel sorry for those over 55, because by looks of it they simply do not exist in the minds of companies.


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          • #
            Roy Hogue

            I feel sorry for those over 55, because by looks of it they simply do not exist in the minds of companies.

            Not to worry, life has revenge all built in. Some day those young pups who think old is useless will be old themselves and they’ll suffer the same treatment. ;-) I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing but it does seem to be the way life works.

            A short story about age:

            Years ago I started my career as a computer operator. We were all young guys under 30, basically in an entry level job. Some, like me, were going to school as well as hoping for a good career opportunity out of it. One day another operator went on and on to me about how you couldn’t trust anyone over 30 (pretty typical ’60s attitude). I let him talk for a minute and then I asked him, what are you going to do when you reach 30, shoot yourself? The silence was deafening — and priceless.

            PS:

            Yes Virginia, there really were computer operators way back in the stone age of computer science. You mounted reels of tape, put the programmer’s punched card deck in the card reader, ran the job and then made sure all the output got back to the right person — 8 hours a day. You can imagine this as the computer science equivalent of the busboy in your local restaurant. The pay was better of course but no one stayed at it for very long.


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      • #
        Tim

        It is the case that some hunter gatherers abandon or kill the old and infirm if they cannot keep up with the tribe – purely out of necessity so that others will not starve. This is hardly a case for excluding competent seniors nowadays from competing to get work in first world countries. But old tribal customs still seem to be hardwired into society. Ageism, like all of our other tribal ‘isms’, is probably born of primal fear and who knows how to overcome it?


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    • #
      bananabender

      Professor Frank Monsour (father in law of Campbell Newman) still heads the oral surgery unit at the Royal Brisbane Hospital at age 74. [He also graduated at 20 with First Class Honours - possibly the youngest ever dentistry graduate in Australia.]


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    • #
      MudCrab

      I remember an email article that was doing the rounds a few years back that stated basically the same thing. The percentage of people who retire from work only to die within 5 years was shown to be way too high to just be some wives tale.

      I think the basic summary at the end of the article was you have either three choices;
      - Get a hobby
      - Stay working
      - Die

      I can’t remember if there was shown to be a link between physical activity and early death but basically, if you can’t find something to interest you then you are toast.


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    Ross

    A few years ago I read an article about a guy who did a PhD in the 1970′s which involved trying to measure how long we retained our fitness when not exercising ( it was probably more complex than that summary). He told a group of youg men in their early 20′s and put them on a fitness regime for several months and then put them all in hospital beds for several weeks –they not allowed to get up and when they did to wash etc they were taken in wheel chairs. Obviously he was taking various measurements and tests all along the way.
    About 30 years later he wondered what the guys were now like and ended up tracking down some of them —most were over weight, extremely unfit etc. So he decided to partially repeat the experiment to see if he could get the guys back to anywhere their original fitness where he measured fitness as a form of work output ( ie. energy output).
    While it took a little longer to achieve he got them all back to what they were doing in their early 20′s!!
    It’s never too late for anyone.


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    Mark D.

    I’ll be showing this to my nearly 89yo mum. She is pretty spry yet and after having a very close call in October, needs to see a fellow octogenarian + making some moves.

    Thank you Jo for the inspiration, sooner or later I’ll have to try these moves myself. :)


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      Roy Hogue

      Thank you Jo for the inspiration, sooner or later I’ll have to try these moves myself.

      Mark,

      Make sure your medical insurance is paid up first! Maybe put a good chiropractor or orthopedic surgeon on retainer? We don’t want to lose you. ;-)


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    David, UK

    A rare and uplifting instalment from the Anything is Possible department. Thanks, I needed this! :)


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  • #
    Gamecock

    You don’t quit playing because you grow old; you grow old because you quit playing.


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    Mike S

    There go my excuses…..


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    Neville

    I try to walk for half an hour every day but I don’t look as fit as this fit lady. I wish I did.

    BTW I just posted this at Jennifer’s blog and it is very interesting.

    This is probably the best and most comprehensive interview of Michael Smith by Alan Jones explaining the Gillard AWU slush fund.

    http://www.2gb.com/article/gillard-slush-fund

    Incredible material, but how can this person still be PM of Australia? I hope Cohenite ( a lawyer) has the time to listen to this long interview.


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    John Brookes

    I like to believe this stuff, and obviously its true for some people, like this lady. But the men in our family are all dead by their mid 80′s. The decline in the 70′s is striking. Most of my friends have parents who are dead or frail. And that includes the ones who led active lives.

    This “you can achieve anything” rubbish is past its use by date. Yes, I’m going to do what I can to keep active and healthy as long as possible (2 hours on the bike today), but I won’t be surprised if my body packs it in 25 – 30 years from now.

    Oh well, enough of being depressing for one day.


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      Roy Hogue

      Oh well, enough of being depressing for one day.

      Yes! More than enough. So think on the positive side. You might live to be 90 and still be in good health. And I hope you do.

      My grandfather ran his own printing business until he was 90 years old. At that point the family persuaded him to retire and he died in two years.

      I would rather have found him dead on the floor of his shop some day than watch him sit with nothing to do for those two years. Would not retiring have made any difference? I don’t know but at least he would still have been doing what made him useful and productive. And that’s something way beyond putting a price on it.


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      Neville

      John I agree with you about trying to keep fit and I agree that we don’t know the hour or day when we may depart.

      I’ve known much fitter people than I who have suddenly died quite young.
      I’ve known an old lazy villian who smoked from the age of twelve and died in his 90s smoking more than 20 cigs a day.

      I’m sure it’s a measure of luck and a mixture of Mum and Dadd’s genes, but I still try and walk for half an hour a day.


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    Justthinkin

    And she is a fine example of today.From a canuck,who lost a few

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.


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    Justthinkin

    darn….sorry.still the 11th here…:):)


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    michael hart

    Maintain physical flexibility and mobility.
    Maintain blood-oxygen supply to the extremities with gentle to moderate physical activity.
    Maintain warmth and body heat.
    The three are synergistic, so loss of one makes it harder to maintain the others.

    If you live somewhere with cold winters (or summers!) and cannot afford to stay as warm as you need, but are lucky enough to live in a democracy, then you might want to take it up with your elected representatives.

    Ask them what they are doing to make energy costs lower.


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  • #
    Geoff Sherrington

    Don’t forget your colleague Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit, whose age I don’t know, but who must be over 90 by now. He is a Canadian champion in a form of squash and squash must be among the more demanding sports. In his scientific analysis, when a squash is needed, he knows how to apply it with grace and great pain.


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    gai

    Seeing this just encouraged me not to retire from my small business. My husband (69) and I keep looking at each other and trying to figure out how to “retire” and shrugging our shoulders. I rather die “in harness” anyway.

    On the subject of

    ..bone density decreases markedly after the age of 50, with an estimated one in two women and one in five men over 50 suffering a bone fracture from osteoporosis.

    Vitamine D3 is critical along with concussion to the bone and of course the correct minerals/diet. My bones have actually gotten larger since I quit a desk job and took up farming at age 54. I can no longer wear my old shoes or gloves because they are way too narrow. The cuffs on my old shirts will not button either. I have also had injuries (trampled, stomped, kicked) that in an old woman should have resulted in broken bones but have barely raised a bruise.

    The correct nutrition and exercise can make a huge difference in your health.


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    RoHa

    I still think that aging disgracefully sounds like more fun.


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