The Original At-home Workout Queen is Still Going Strong
Denise Austin has been empowering people to take ownership of their fitness for decades. She was one of the first and one of the biggest names to burst onto the scene in the 1980s, and she helped the industry grow and evolve to where it is today. She’s sold more than 25 million videos and DVDs, starred on countless TV shows and written a dozen books. Now in her 60s, she is still fit, still amazing and still going strong, anxious to share what she’s learned along the way.
What is life like these days for Denise Austin?
I wake up happy and feel energized every day. This year, I’m celebrating 40 years in the exercise-and-fitness industry. I just turned 63, I believe in what I do and I believe it does truly make you feel better. And that’s what it’s all about. How much has the industry changed since you first got your start in the 1980s? These days we talk a lot about functional fitness and the importance of strength training.
What is most important to you?
It’s been fun through the years to try out all the different phases and crazes in the exercise industry. We had the high-energy aerobics, then it went to step aerobics, then Pilates and yoga. One thing that has always stayed the same is the fact that exercise is the best preventative medicine there is. We have so much new science and research about how food helps us and how moving helps us. And now we also know this: Health is the most important thing in our lives. You can have all the money in the world; but if you don’t have good health, you have nothing. As we age, things change.
How has age affected you personally in terms of how you work out, what working out does for you or how much harder it is to maintain?
Through the years, and the different stages of life, my workouts have certainly changed a lot. I’ve had children, so I had to get back into shape after giving birth to my two daughters. Now I’m going through menopause, and that changes a woman’s body. To tell you the truth, I’ve been able to keep up with workouts through the years, but I’ve changed in certain things. Like I truly enjoy yoga now. I love it because of the flexibility that it gives my body to stay limber. I believe stretching as we age is so important. The most important thing to do as we age is to strengthen your muscles. We begin to lose muscle mass quickly after the age of 50, so we need to keep up those muscle cells. Strength training, to me now, is of utmost importance; whereas before, cardio was important. I used to do high-energy aerobics. Now I do cardio walking. I walk as fast as I can. It’s easy on the joints, and I get out there every day and get in my 10,000 steps.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, you were THE at-home workout VHS queen. These days, you’re tapping into new technologies to reach your fans. How do you feel about the changes?
I’ve been through the world of VHS tapes, then DVDs and now I’m on the internet. I’ve seen all the changes, and I love it. I can interact with people on my Facebook and Instagram pages or my website. They’ll ask me about ab exercises or how to get rid of the jiggle in their arms, and I just love being able to answer them immediately. I’m talking to our followers daily, and it’s just so much fun. I’m also now working with my daughter Katie and having a blast. When she was 6 years old, she’d be behind the camera working out alongside me; and now, she’s in front of the camera with me! She played lacrosse at a Division 1 school, so she’s a really gifted athlete. We really complement each other well. She helps me with technology, like introducing me to Instagram and all the changes online. (She tells me I’m old school all the time!) And with my background, I help her with what moves really work — technique and posture-wise. We’re having a lot of fun!
Is there a moral to your story? Is there something we can learn from what you’ve been through and what you’ve experienced?
Prevent bad health later by exercising now. I only work out for 30 minutes, but it’s consistent behavior. That’s the key, being consistent and getting it done in the day — walking, moving, getting out of the chair as often as you can. The bottom line is: Just find an activity you enjoy and stick with it because you can do it. It’s also about having a positive attitude, to wake up feeling grateful and knowing that you can do this. Do the best you can and live each day to the most that you feel you can. I’m committed to staying healthy in my body and mind. Strong bodies lead to strong minds. You are worth it, and I believe that.