It’s never too late to start your fitness journey — and all the proof you need is 73-year-old Joan MacDonald.
At the age of 70, doctors told this Ontario, Canada resident that she had to make big lifestyle changes for the sake of her health. She was on multiple medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and acid reflux, and she was given a choice: take even higher doses, or develop healthier habits.
“I knew I had to do something different,” MacDonald told Shape. “I had watched my mom go through the same thing, taking medication after medication, and I didn’t want that life for myself.”
So MacDonald made some changes, with the help of her daughter Michelle, a yogi, competitive powerlifter and professional chef. She started by joining Michelle’s online workout program, with a focus on building strength and endurance. She had to get an iPhone and learn how to use apps for this part. Then she began going on walks for cardio, practicing yoga and lifting weights.
To date, she’s lost 62 pounds and no longer takes any medication. MacDonald’s transformation is incredible, as you can see on her Instagram account @trainwithjoan. (FYI, she’s something of a star on Insta, with 97.1K followers and counting.)
“I never let people take photos of me because I couldn’t accept where I was and yet, I also couldn’t seem to change,” she says in the post of how difficult it was for her to start working on her fitness levels. “It was a very tough place to be, and I stayed in that place for a very long time.”
Over the last three years, MacDonald has built up to her current fitness routine, which includes at least five workouts per week (she goes to the gym first thing in the morning and her session takes around two hours, but she explained that this is because she’s “very slow”). Two of her daily workouts focus on cardio — typically the stationary bike or the rower — and the other three include a mix of cardio and strength training, training different muscle groups each day.
Check out these arms, on this Instagram image. She’s ripped!
As well as exercising, MacDonald makes sure she sticks to healthy meals — without depriving herself of anything she likes. She says she eats five small meals a day.
“I think one of the main reasons I’ve been able to be so successful with my weight loss is that I follow a macro-based meal plan and then I get to chose all of my favorite ingredients to build my meals,” she said on a recent Instagram post.
She also shared some of her favorite foods in the post, with a picture showing off her daughter’s homemade “Hattie Cakes.” She sometimes includes food images and recipes on her Instagram, too.
It’s common to hear people who’ve made fitness a big part of their life talk about the “journey” they’ve been on, and that’s certainly the case for MacDonald. Although her original goal was to lose as much weight as possible, her priority now is to feel strong and powerful, and she likes to set herself specific goals to challenge herself. And some of those goals are seriously tough.
“I’ve been working on doing unassisted pull-ups,” she told Shape. “I was actually able to do a few just the other day, but I’d like to be able to do it like all the young ‘uns. That’s my goal.”
The senior’s advice for older women who want to get into fitness — and it applies to men too — is simple: don’t let your age hold you back. “We are strong [and] capable of change, but we’re often viewed as fragile,” she said in Shape. “I hope that more women my age embrace being pushed and appreciate that someone is interested in seeing you try harder. Even though you can’t turn back the clock, you can wind it up again.”
That’s great advice — whatever age you are!