• Fit at 50

    ... can mean fit at 60, 70 and 80
  • At 45, DeEtte Sauer was a dead woman walking.
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  • At 45, DeEtte Sauer was a dead woman walking.
    She was morbidly obese, her heart disease so serious a doctor warned her to expect "an event at any time." Eaten up by her marketing career, struggling to raise three kids, she smoked, drank and never, ever exercised.
    Sauer remembers a vacation when — at 5-foot-5 and 230 pounds — she couldn't make it onto a small boat for a day out with her family. "That's when it hit me. I was an elected cripple. I had done it to myself."
    She got busy, slowly shedding the weight through sensible eating and exercise. She began to walk around her Houston neighborhood, then she discovered the pool. Now 69, the woman who once had a supermom complex is a competitive, medal-winning senior swimmer.
    "It literally saved my life," Sauer said, adding that her best event is the butterfly — a stroke she learned at age 62.
    To trainers with lots of clients well beyond 50, Sauer is the holy grail, somebody who works hard and efficiently, taking care to avoid injury while maintaining motivation, strength and endurance through careful workouts. Getting fit later in life is one thing, they said, but staying that way at 60, 70 and 80 is another.
    "Going from running to walking, going from the treadmill to the elliptical as we age — it can be really frustrating, mentally debilitating," said Chris Freytag, a yoga and Pilates instructor and contributing fitness editor for Prevention magazine.
    "Even for me. I'm 45 and say, 'Oh God, I can just see it coming.' There's going to be some wear and tear. That doesn't mean I have to give up, but I have to make some changes."
    Back, hips, knees, balance, cardio — all can be trouble spots and big blows to a positive attitude for seniors, said Freytag and fitness expert Denise Austin, who was Jack LaLanne's sidekick on television and went on to her own workout shows, DVDs and books. At 53, she has a new book out in January, "Get Energy!"
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