Dr. Charles Eugster believes exercise has an anti-aging effect.
"Age is not a barrier to fitness", says 92-year-old Dr Charles Eugster, former couch potato now racking up sports medals by the dozen.
Charles said at 91 years old:
“I’m not chasing youthfulness. I’m chasing health. People have been brainwashed to think that after you’re 65, you’re finished. We’re told that old age is a continuous state of decline, and that we should stop working, slow down and prepare to die. I disagree. To me, a 65-year-old is young. I turn 92 this year. It is a frightening prospect – the law of averages is against me, and, yes, one day something will happen and that will be it. But until that day comes, I’m going to carry on working on my abs.”While most 90-somethings could be forgiven for taking it easy in their tenth decade, Dr Charles Eugster is something of an exception. The retired dentist is far too busy honing his six-pack and adding to his burgeoning collection of sporting medals to rest on his laurels.
Oddly enough for a man who only began bodybuilding at the age of 87, he hotly denies being a fitness fanatic. "Exercising is like brushing your teeth or washing," he explains.
"If you don't do those things, something nasty happens. Staying fit at 60-plus is vital for quality of life," says the British expat, who now lives in Switzerland.
Dr Eugster is living proof of this. To date he boasts 36 gold medals for rowing from the 1,000m-plus races in both European Masters and World Masters Regattas. He has also won medals at Strenflex World Championships annual fitness tournament three times.
The competition, entered by 2,800 contestants from 40 countries, tests competitors strength, endurance and flexibility. Divided into five age categories, ranging from 18 to 80-plus, contestants have to perform 10 exercises, including squats, bench presses, chin-ups, push-ups and abdominal crunches, with points awarded both for quality and the number of repetitions achieved for each in 45 seconds.
Dr Eugster?s winning performance included 61 chin-ups, 50 push-ups and 48 abdominal crunches.
However, what makes this achievement more remarkable is all of these plaudits were attained after he reached 60.
In fact most of Dr Eugster's middle years were spent as a self-confessed couch potato.
"I was keen on sports at school but when I married in my 30s, my wife wasn't as interested in fitness and I adopted her inactive lifestyle."It was only in his mid-50s when he developed varicose veins Dr Eugster began exercising. "I started by running to the top of a small hill near my house and back again. Every day I'd go a bit further and two years later I realized the veins had gone."
At 60 he began entering rowing competitions but it was only in his mid-80s that he started bodybuilding. For the past three years Dr Eugster has followed a regime that involves training three times a week for between 40 minutes to 90 minutes at a time.
His routine consists of rowing machine sessions to improve his stamina and a combination of resistance exercises using his own body weight, free weights and weight machines to build muscle. He eats a low-fat, high-protein diet including lots of fruit and vegetables.
His weight dropped from 12st 2lb to 10st 3lb, which is more fitting for his 5ft 5in height and his muscle mass doubled.
Dr Eugster is passionate about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. "Besides stamina, strength and balance, exercise has an all-over anti-aging effect. Aerobic exercise helps to keep the brain sharp. Even low levels of exercise can have great benefits."
In His Own Words - Life Story
I was a very sickly child. From the age of six I had constant headaches and chronic tonsilitis. I became pale, sluggish and my growth was slow. I remember noticing one day that my best friend, who was a year younger than me, was slightly taller and that I was very upset about it.
At 13, I had my tonsils removed and as my health improved, everything changed. I shot up and suddenly I was full of energy. I thought back to myself as a frail, sickly boy, and vowed never to be like that again.
I took up boxing, rowing and rugby. Staying fit and strong became my priority.
After school I trained to be a dentist, but sport remained an important hobby. I only once let myself go. As I crept into my 40s, I adopted my wife's sedentary lifestyle. We spent a lot of time doing nothing. Inevitably, my blood pressure plummeted and one day I felt a sharp pain in my legs – only to discover the dark, earthworm-like patterns of varicose veins across my calves. It was my first brush with old age, and I didn't like it. Immediately I resumed rowing to stay fit.
Life went on. My wife and I divorced. At 60, I discovered veteran's rowing and started competing internationally, eventually winning 36 gold medals. I'm not a particularly talented sportsman, but I've always been a great trier. At 75, many of my friends began to pass away. People were getting older around me, but I was only just ready to retire. I carried on rowing and publishing a dentistry newsletter until I was 82.
Then at 85 I had a crisis. I looked at myself in the mirror one day, and saw an old man. I was overweight, my posture was terrible and there was skin hanging off me where muscle used to be. I looked like a wreck. I started to consider the fact that I was probably going to die soon. I knew I was supposed to slow down, but I'm vain. I missed my old body and wanted to be able to strut across the beach, turning heads.
I was already rowing six times a week, and there didn't seem any harm in pushing myself a bit harder to rebuild my muscles. So in my late-80s I joined a bodybuilding club.
There's no research into bodybuilding for the over-80s, so it's been an experiment. With weight-lifting and protein shakes, my body began to change. It became broader, more v-shaped, and my shoulders and biceps became more defined. People began to comment on how much younger I looked, and my new muscular frame drew a lot of admiring glances from women.
Everything I learned was tailored to help my body cope with old age. I took up judo to teach me how to fall properly. My circulation and posture improved, and I was told that there was a chance more muscle mass could protect my brain from Alzheimer's. I stopped thinking about dying. As I approached 90, my focus was on getting my body back.
In 2008, I signed up for my first championship. I was nervous, but although I was the oldest contestant by around 20 years, everyone was very welcoming. I got higher scores than all the women taking part, and a lot of the men. Then, at last year's event in Germany, I triumphed, scoring higher than any contestant in any age category for my 57 dips, 61 chin-ups, 50 push-ups and 48 abdominal crunches, each in 45 seconds. As I'm over 70, they did make allowances – I could do the push-ups on my knees, for example – but I proved I wasn't past it.
I'm not chasing youthfulness. I'm chasing health. People have been brainwashed to think that after you're 65, you're finished. We're told that old age is a continuous state of decline, and that we should stop working, slow down and prepare to die. I disagree. To me, a 65-year-old is young. I turn 92 this year. It is a frightening prospect – the law of averages is against me, and, yes, one day something will happen and that will be it. But until that day comes, I'm going to carry on working on my abs.
Thanks for reading! What do you think?