An inspiring role model at any age

February 18, 2014 —

I recently learned about Ernestine Shepherd, who holds the title of World’s Oldest Performing Bodybuilder, proclaimed by the Guinness Book of World Records. While her age (late 70s) and accomplishments are remarkable, perhaps even more impressive is that two decades ago she was a pudgy, sedentary “slug” (her term) who had never worked out a day in her life. That changed when she and her sister, Velvet, went bathing suit-shopping, an experience that made them laugh and realize they needed to get in shape.

Go here. Or take a walk or take the stairs - just take the time to get in some exercise.

Go here. Or take a walk or take the stairs – just take the time to get in some exercise.

Sadly, Velvet died of a brain aneurysm shortly after that. Depressed, Ernestine stopped working out, but she revived her routine when a friend reminded her that her sister would want her to continue. She now exercises daily, competes in races and as a bodybuilder and works as a trainer. She no longer needs the medication she previously took for high blood pressure. And she did it all, as her website notes, by taking steps that most of us can follow:

  • She began exercising slowly and built up her routine gradually.
  • She consulted with a nutritionist and follows a healthy diet.
  • She makes sure to get enough sleep.
  • She strives to maintain a positive attitude and view her workouts as fun.

“She has a lot to teach us about thriving at any age – if we are but ready and open to learn,” her website states.

It’s easy to use age as an excuse for slacking off exercise. But as Ernestine Shepherd demonstrates, maintaining physical activity makes daily life easier, more fun and active. This week, make it your resolution to grab a grandparent, your sneakers and some hand weights and get moving.


Endlessly curious and easily entertained, Barb Dietrich Boose loves being a member of the friendly, fascinating DMU community and its creative communications team. The University's publications director and DMU Magazine editor, Barb is always on the hunt for story ideas, good books and new recipes to try out on her family, such as her surprisingly tasty pork-and-bean bars.

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