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Women Who Inspire: Fitness Expert Denise Austin

It is hard to believe that fitness expert, author, and television star Denise Austin is 62 years old. She is as vibrant and inspiring as she was when she first started in the fitness business more than four decades ago. “Although I have changed my diet and exercise routine as I’ve aged, I haven’t changed my attitude. I’ve always had a healthy outlook and positive energy,” she says.

Fitness has been an essential part of Austin’s life since she was a child. She was a competitive gymnast and in college, she placed in the top 10 in the NCAA on the balance beam. Austin got her bachelor’s degree in physical education and minored in exercise physiology. 

Armed with both knowledge and enthusiasm, Austin got her big break in 1981 when, at 24 years old, she was offered a chance to co-host the long-running The Jack LaLanne Show. Two years later, Austin was headlining her own TV exercise show on ESPN and then on Lifetime. In 1984, she became the first national fitness expert on the Today show. In 2002, she was a member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. 

All I’ve ever wanted is to look the best I can and to feel the best I can. I love motivating other people to do the same

After 24 years on television, 12 books, and more than two dozen exercise videos, the married mother of two is still passionate about exercise, eating well, and staying fit. “All I’ve ever wanted is to look the best I can and to feel the best I can. I love motivating other people to do the same,” she says.

Currently, Austin is interested in helping older women live healthier and have more active lifestyles. “Much of the fitness world is geared toward younger people, which is why I primarily focus the content on my website toward women 45-plus, who tend to be an underserved population,” she says.

Austin finds that one of the biggest challenges women face as they age is giving up on themselves, especially if they’ve gained weight. “I urge women not to get discouraged,” she says. “Do some form of exercise each day. If you have haven’t exercised in a long time or never at all, just a 10-minute walk sets you on the right track. If you keep at it, soon you will be walking 15 minutes and then 20. The key is to get started.”

Beyond taking an exercise class, Austin suggests women think about fitness, especially movement and toning, throughout their day. Austin says, “The more we move, the more we can continue to move. I’m always moving. I pace when I talk on the phone or jog in place while watching TV.”

Austin has always been a big advocate of stretching, strength training, and yoga. She says, “I do a handstand every day to get the blood flowing.” She also makes a conscious effort to focus on her posture. “As we age, there is a tendency to kind of curl up, so we need to counterbalance this by lengthening our necks, pulling in our abs and standing straight so we can breathe better. I always say, ‘You are your own architect when it comes to your body.'”

When it comes to eating, not surprisingly, the former gymnast says it is all about balance. “I feel more energized if I keep my dinner light. I try to eat lean and clean 80 percent of the time and allow myself 20 percent to indulge. Life is for living, so I do enjoy my wine and I enjoy good food. If I overeat, I don’t beat myself about it. Instead, I just add an extra 10 minutes to my exercise the following day.”

I always say,‘You are your own architect when it comes to your body.’

As she has aged, Austin has added more healthy fats and omega-3s to her diet. She likes avocados, chia seed, and flax seed, and she eats fish twice a week. “I find this really makes a difference in the way my skin and hair look. Plus, these types of good fats promote brain health,” she says.

Even though she has always been in the public eye throughout her adult life, Austin has never worried about being fat or skinny. She says, “Especially as the mother of two daughters, I was always conscious not to talk about weight and instead keep the focus on wellness, staying fit, and being healthy.” 

Austin’s words and lifestyle had an impact on her 25- year-old daughter Katie, who is also a fitness expert. The mother/daughter duo have appeared together on The Today Show and The Rachael Ray Show. Austin jokes, “Katie loves all my old spandex and neon exercise outfits from the ’80s and has asked to borrow a few.”

While some of Austin’s outfits may seem dated, it is clear that her positive outlook on life, health, and fitness will never go out of style. 

Work out with Austin at

Photos: Courtesy of Denise Austin

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