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Fitness Influencers' Best Healthy Living Tips

We asked Instagram stars — who happen to be over 50 — to share their diets, workouts and all-around best advice for staying fit and healthy

A Day in the Life of a 68-Year-Old Fitness Expert

Influencer: Ellen Ector, 68, owner, Gymnetics Fitness, Atlanta

Instagram: @ellenectorfit

Location: Atlanta

When Ector turned 40, looking at a photo a friend had snapped proved an instant wake-up call. As she tells it, struggling in her marriage, drinking too much and sleeping too little had taken a toll on not only her looks but also her health. In search of a major wellness shift, she quit her job as a social worker and moved to Atlanta to pursue her dream of opening what's now her own gym.

Her best get-started advice

Take baby steps. You put the weight on; you're not going to lose it in a month or in the two weeks before your birthday. You have to work weight loss into your lifestyle. There is no quick fix with fitness.

Personally, I find that getting my fitness out of the way first thing in the morning works best. Then I'm happy the rest of the day.

Her workout routine

I teach two kettlebell classes a week and take three more classes a week, such as Zumba with weights, or yoga and meditation classes. I also like to run, swim and bike. I'm averaging 40 miles a week running on trails or street or track. It's so easy to go out your front door and just run. You don't have to belong to a gym. Or you can just walk. Walking is just as good.

Sharing her food-and-drink philosophy

My daughter and her daughter and I started a plant diet in 2017. We are trying to break these generational health curses. About 4 out of 5 African American women are obese or overweight. My mom was overweight, and she died of uterine cancer. I remember reading her medical report and reading, “A 62-year-old African American woman with uterine cancer who was obese.” It hurt me so bad. I thought, I'm not going to go out like that.

I haven't had a drink since May 17, 1994. Not one drop of alcohol, because I became aware that I was powerless over alcohol. If I had one drink, I would probably have another.

What she eats throughout the day

Breakfast: I might have oatmeal, some fruit or a smoothie. My favorite is the “smooth operator.” I make it with spinach, kale, strawberries, blueberries and avocados.

Lunch and dinner: I eat a variety of lettuces and vegetables. I like broccoli, collard greens, tomatoes, avocados. I love sweet potatoes. I put a sweet potato in the oven, then top it with spinach or baked beans.

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Why being open to new things matters

My first time in the gym, I remember running and walking around the track, taking baby steps, and a guy there told me, “You're not going to lose weight unless you start lifting weights.” He wasn't an instructor, but I followed his instruction to a T, and he became a good friend. He had me join a running club, the Black Marathoners Association in Cleveland, my hometown. There were only two women in the group, and we became the first African American women to run a marathon in Cleveland.

On breaking health curses — for good

African American women are leading statistics in cancer, diabetes, strokes, all sorts of things. It's very important for African American women to know our numbers, know what your blood pressure is, know what your weight is. I did break the generational health curse. I've taught all my kids how to eat healthy and work out and stay on the healthy journey.

spinner image fitness influencer carla kemp sitting in a gym and smiling
Earl E. Gibson III

Influencer: Carla Kemp, 58, personal assistant-real estate investor

Instagram: @fabnfitbycarla

Location: Los Angeles

After having her daughter, in 1984, Kemp was determined to get back to a healthy weight. That motivated her to join a gym. Once she saw the results of regular workouts, she says, she never stopped.

Her workout routine

I choose different fitness components to focus on each day, without having to spend hours each time working out. I do cross training — yoga for flexibility; a cardiovascular workout for my heart, like a spin class two or three times a week. Then I'll follow that up with ab work or stretching. The other three days I focus on weight training, with free weights or machines.

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Relying on music for motivation

I listen to my music. I love Motown, old-school music. I walk in with my music in my ears and leave with my music; that keeps me motivated and going. If I forget my music, I'm like, “Oh no, what am I going to do?"

How she mixes it up

When I get burned out I'll hire a trainer or I'll take on new activities. Those have included joining a swim team, playing tennis and training for a marathon. I'm just kind of an adventurous person by spirit. I like trying new things. Roller skating is my new hobby. It's a great workout.

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Her best get-started advice

Establish a daily routine that you can stick to. If you haven't been doing anything, start with something not too aggressive, like a 10-minute walk, then slowly add on to it. You'll notice you start looking forward to it.

You also need to make the correlation that exercise is just like brushing your teeth, just like combing your hair — it's something you have to do. Once you start doing it, you will stop fighting it; it will become a normal part of what you do.

What she eats throughout the day

Breakfast: I drink a protein shake or fruit with a little yogurt, granola, nuts or seeds. I try to eat whatever fruit is in season.

Lunch: Simple works for me: salad with greens, kale, arugula, veggies, nuts and maybe some fruit in it. I do think a crunch factor is good, as it helps satisfy you — cucumbers, carrots, radishes, broccoli.

Dinner: I like to have some type of warm vegetables over a salad or rice or couscous, warm cauliflower steak, sweet potatoes.

Nighttime: Popcorn, that's my treat. I drizzle some olive oil on it and sprinkle on sea salt. I air-pop it. I don't have a microwave.

How she indulges, just a little

If I'm out with a girlfriend and she's having something I wouldn't typically eat, like a dessert or fried food, I might indulge in it. I just don't go overboard. I'll also have a cocktail out occasionally.

How age factors into her workout

I spend more time warming up. I also notice that weight training is so critical to hold on to muscle tone. I always knew flexibility was important, but now I realize it even more.

I don't feel the need to be working out at the intensity that I was when I was in my 20s and 30s. Strength training, breaking a sweat and consistency is now key. I'm kind of taking the easier approach because I don't want to cause an injury — even a minor one. If something made me stop, I would just be a wreck.

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Courtesy: Sara Kooperman

Influencer: Sara Kooperman, 62, CEO of SCW Fitness Education

Instagram: @sarakooperman

Location: Wilmette, Illinois

Kooperman, a dancer in high school, got serious about working out after gaining weight in college, starting with aerobics and advancing to jogging, skiing, yoga and more. As she tells it, once exercise is part of your life, you'll grow to love it — and motivation will come easily when you get used to feeling better after a workout.

How she starts the day

I wake by 5 or 6 a.m. and drink a big cup of coffee. Then I respond to overnight emails while eating a bowl of Raisin Bran with almond milk. At 7:30 or 8 a.m., most days, I meet a girlfriend for a three-mile walk. Then I do my strength training or yoga back at home and will make myself some scrambled eggs, a fresh orange, toast. I eat whole eggs, not just egg whites. I also have real butter.

Her workout routine

I've transitioned to fitness that satisfies my body where it is now. My cardio is walking; my flexibility training is yoga, and my strength training is a free-weights program set to music. From there, I teach a few fitness classes and always take a class, as well.

I'm also an avid skier. I really have learned to listen to my body, because if you don't, that's when you tear your knees up or your back or you falI. So if I'm tired and I know I'm tired, I'm out of there at 2:30.

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Why she loves walking

If I can't find a girlfriend to walk with, I do a phone call with an out-of-town friend or cousin. That's my catch-up time. It's a two-shot: exercise and catching up with friends or family. I also love walking after dinner with my husband.

I used to be obsessed with running and the endorphin high. But now I realize that when I walk, it's easier on the joints; my back doesn't go out like it used to; I don't feel beaten up that night. Instead, I feel good.

What she eats for lunch and dinner

For lunch, salads are my go-to. I'll miss greens and veggies; it might not have protein in there because I've had eggs not too long ago. I see my afternoon snack as a good opportunity to squeeze a piece of fruit into my diet.

For dinner — when, like this summer, I've got two of four [adult] sons home and a husband — we'll have red meat, chicken, pork chops or seafood such as salmon or shrimp. We often have cauliflower rice, and I do a lot with vegetables: asparagus, broccoli with a little butter, also stir-fry vegetables, including zucchini or carrots. Or I'll serve a caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

How she indulges, just a little

I'll put 1/2 cup to a cup of ice cream in the tiniest coffee mug, because a serving size is really pretty small. My guilty pleasure is Homer's raspberry chocolate chip ice cream.

I used to love wine, but I've found as I've aged I get a bad headache. What doesn't give me a headache is scotch.

spinner image fitness influencer jean titus in the gym

Influencer: Jean Titus, 53, trainer, speaker and entrepreneur

Instagram: @titusunlimited

Location: Miami

Always a fitness buff, Titus says his inspiration to help others change their lives by getting fit came in 2001, after the death of his mother from cancer. His personal mantra: “We rise by lifting others.”

Why the morning is so important

If you front-load your day with good habits, guess what happens? You've now become consistent, and those good foods and exercise routines become building blocks to a healthy lifestyle.

His own workout

I generally do weight lifting with CrossFit and high-endurance stuff. I don't do much running because of the impact on the joints. I can get the same results with less wear and tear doing a HIIT routine.

On listening to your body

You need days off for recovery; that's one of the biggest things about being in shape that people negate — that rest time you need.

What he eats throughout the day

Breakfast: The first meal is a fruit smoothie, around noon, with a plant-based protein, sea moss and chia seeds. It's a very nutrient-dense smoothie that's easy for the body to break down. The fruit in it gives me energy. It also helps with immunity and detoxification.

Lunch: My next meal is two or three hours after that first noon meal. I typically eat a chicken salad or chicken sandwich or fish and rice. I air-fry, bake or roast the chicken or fish and always eat the skin. A lot of the nutrients and healthy fats for fish or chicken are in the skin.

Dinner: I stick to protein and veggies. Typically that protein is seafood: salmon, sea bass, grouper, snapper, branzini, cod for their omega-3 fatty acids. I prefer veggies that are higher in fiber and nutrients and lower in carbs, such as asparagus, spinach, brussels sprouts, et cetera.

His best get-started advice

It's better to start off small and remain consistent than try to bite off more than you can chew and have to face the disappointment of not being able to sustain the effort. Maybe for you that's drinking more water each day or eating more fruit each day or try taking a daily walk. Then each week add something to what you did the previous week.

How he indulges, just a little

Avoid mixed drinks with a whole bunch of sugar; that's when you start to pick up added calories. Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime instead, and for every drink you have, drink a 12- to 16-ounce glass of water.

Keeping an eye on weight maintenance

When you're younger you're doing more; you require more food because you burn more calories. When people get older and get more settled, they keep the same eating habits, but actually activity is reduced, and that's when weight gain comes up.

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