Eleanore Miller, 91
(Charlie Archambault for USN&WR)
Every Monday at 8 a.m., Eleanore Miller leads a class at 24 Hour Fitness in Whittier, Calif., and she knows how to keep her mostly elderly students coming back. "You never pick on someone and say, 'Well, you're doing it wrong.' If you're present, you get 90 percent," she says. "One lady told me her shoulder hurt, and I said, 'Come in, and do what you can.' " Miller has been active since about age 9 (when her mother, concerned that she was "doing nothing" after school, gave her the green light to go play)—first baseball with her brother as a child in Southern California, badminton and Ping-Pong with neighbors, tennis with grammar school classmate Bobby Riggs (yes, that one), and, for the past 30 years, a regular teaching gig at the gym, where her class combines aerobic activity with stretching and some yoga. Like one of her idols, Jack LaLanne, she's a firm believer in helping people stay active. Recently, she taught a neighbor a series of hand exercises in order to stop a tremor.
That's not to say that Miller—like most everyone who reaches her age—has not faced physical hurdles. She broke her hip falling down some stairs and, after a short stint in a nursing home, rehabbed it herself, at home. "I sat in the La-Z-Boy, and every five or 10 minutes I walked to the stove and back. I kept saying, 'Ouch,' but after a while I didn't say, 'Ouch,' anymore. I realized I've got two choices: I'm going to live or die, and in order to live, I'm going to have to lift my leg." (Nor did she want to have to instruct people about the importance of exercise from a wheelchair.) Avoiding alcohol and tobacco and eating moderately, as well as putting fitness first, have kept her healthy and happy, Miller says. On some of her nonteaching days, she goes to the local senior center to exercise, and on Mondays, "I get to the club at 6 a.m. The body comes first. The house will still be there when you're dead and gone."
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