Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

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The Real Masters and Aging Well

Last week I happened to see the ceremonial opening tee shot at the Masters golf tournament that featured Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player who are all great champions.  Palmer is 83, Nicklaus is 73, and Player 77.   What struck me as I watched was how well Player hit the ball at age 77.   The video clip below is from earlier in the year and shows Player hitting off the tee.   Here is a link to a slow motion video from a year ago.


click here for video


I am not a huge golf fan, but the flexibility, range of motion, rhythm and power of Player at age 77 is remarkable.  Player is also one of the first high profile athletes to really incorporate fitness training into his routine and he has kept at it as he ages and continues to participate and compete.   His program includes a lot of core strength exercises and he has some excellent tips about things like remembering to take the stairs.  Here are his “10 rules” on being an athlete, you can argue about some of the specifics, but on the whole he has it right.   His program and his rules might also be described as state of the art thoughts from someone who is aging well — extremely well.   He also makes a key point about staying engaged in life with his rule number 10:


“When I’m on vacation, I try to play golf with younger people, the fitter the better. I think you tend to take on the characteristics of the individuals you spend the most time with. Doing activities with young, healthy people has had a way of making me rise to their level. The best traits of young people–their optimism, curiosity, alertness and energy–are contagious and will definitely make you feel younger. “


Never Too Late!

Seeing Player hit the ball so well and reading about his fitness program reminded me that it is never too late to improve.   The clip below is of 95 year old Paul Lurie swimming with Terry Laughlin.  Lurie, like Player, shows outstanding flexibility and rhythm along with terrific overall technique.   I find the fact that Lurie is taking lessons and improving in his 90s as inspirational.

click here for video


Something Special?

It is tempting to argue that Player and Lurie are “something special”; however what they do is pretty typical of “healthy agers”.   And while the population as a whole gets fatter and less fit there is going to be a subset of people like Player and Lurie who both age and thrive.  I also think Player’s comments about doing things with younger people are right on the mark and a key part of the “staying engaged in life” element of successful or active aging.  Some have argued that aging has become overly medicalized and that as the world gets older we need a new paradigm focused on the many positive aspects of aging and how to promote them.  Player and Lurie are good examples of what a new aging paradigm might look like.


One Response to “The Real Masters and Aging Well”

  1. September 28th, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Lessons from the Boss | Breakfast Daily News says:

    […] Role ModelsI have done a number of posts on the great golfer Gary Player who is still going strong as he approaches age 78.  Both Player and Springsteen are among the […]

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