I'm 79 and work out 6 days a week. I do it to have strong bones, and it makes me happy.

I'm 79 and work out 6 days a week. I do it to have strong bones, and it makes me happy.
  • Donna Sasse, a septuagenarian, told Business Insider that age wouldn't stop her from working out.

  • She does press-ups, sit-ups, and other exercises six days a week.

  • Sasse, who just got married to her 76-year-old beau, said he admired her flexibility and stamina.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Donna Sasse. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Six times a week, starting at 7:30 a.m., I make sure I do 90 minutes of exercise.

I meditate for 20 minutes before I begin. Next, I write in my journal 10 things I'm grateful for. One of them is my healthy body. I might be 79, but I love it.

My 76-year-old husband, Jim Theodores, whom I married in September, jokingly says that I look like a teenager. He compliments me on my flexibility and stamina.

I'll kick things off with 30 minutes on my elliptical machine, followed by 30 minutes on the Peloton. Then, I'll do 50 press-ups and 20 sit-ups to strengthen my arms and stomach muscles.

Donna Sasse doing press-ups in her home gym.
Sasse does 50 press-ups a day.Courtesy of Donna Sasse

I was hyperfocused on weight when I was younger

Exercise and fitness have been part of my life since I was about 16. I came from a very loving Italian family that loved to eat and cook. I remember going to a funeral when I was in high school. I saw all my relatives in the church. My aunts, uncles, cousins — everybody — was overweight. It was the same with my dad, mom, sister, brother, and grandparents.

I realized that I had to manage my weight. But I knew I had to do something besides starve myself. Food is fuel for your body, not just for taste and pleasure. It has to be good fuel. It's like putting gasoline in your car. You've got to put good food in your body. And you've got to balance it with movement.

I started working out and running. I'd run around the block and the track at my high school to keep in shape.

But I had insecurities. My first marriage broke up when I was in my 30s. It damaged my confidence. I'm 5-foot-5 and dieted to get from about 130 pounds to 100. I stepped on the scale every day and would get upset if I was up 2 pounds.

One day, I was reading an article about a young girl's journey with anorexia. She was dying, and it scared me.

"That's it," I thought. "I am not going to deprive my body anymore."

I started taking courses on nutrition.

I learned that my self-worth didn't depend on my weight. I learned that I was valuable, whether I weighed 110 pounds or 130. I've never weighed myself since. I use my clothes as a barometer instead.

Donna Sasse in her living room wearing jeans and a black jacket.
Sasse wears "what I like" at the age of 79, she said.Courtesy of Donna Sasse

Working out makes me happier

Meanwhile, I've stuck to my workouts. I love the feeling of it when I'm done. My brain is happier. And I just love to feel my body moving. I see my girlfriends who've gotten heavier with age. They don't move as well. They've had hip replacements and knee replacements. None of them has stayed with a consistent workout.

Four years ago, I had a test that showed I was losing bone density. My doctor wanted me to take drugs, but I said no. Jim and I joined an exercise clinic called OsteoStrong. We do intense weight training for just 15 minutes. It stresses the bones and forces them to create more bones.

It helps keep my arms strong. My physical therapist tested me and said the strength in my hands and upper body put me in the top 4% for women my age.

But I'm not obsessive about my arms. I often wear tops with no sleeves. Between 50 and 60, I started noticing wrinkles on my arms. Now I don't care. At 79, I wear what I like.

I hope I can inspire women — whether they're younger or older — to make their health and body their first priorities.

It's important to push your boundaries. I went surfing recently. I got up on the board. It was amazing. I'm not a surfer and never will be. But I had to try it.

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