Advice On How to Feel Great From Pro Golfer Gary Player

Photo © 2013 Black Knight International

(Photo © 2013 Black Knight International)

How many 77 year old men do you know who are in good enough shape to be invited to pose naked and appear in a popular magazine issue featuring some of the world’s best physiques? My guess is probably not many, but that is exactly what happened to former professional golfer Gary Player when he recently appeared in ESPN Magazine: The Body Issue. Despite his short stature, Gary Player was one of the greatest golfers in the sport’s history. His resume includes a total of 160 tournament victories, and he is the only golfer to ever win both an international grand slam and a senior grand slam. Player has always credited his incredible dedication to fitness as a major reason for excelling in golf for so many years. In order to deliver those kinds of results even on the senior tour, a golfer needs to maintain a certain nimbleness and strength in the spine and in the legs, and good flexibility of the joints.

In other words Gary Player, nicknamed Mr. Fitness when he was on the tour, created a fountain of youth for himself. Impressed by how physically fit and energetic Player seems to be despite his age, I thought he might leave us some clues to help us better take care of our backs, hips, knees, and the rest of our bodies, and it turns out he sure did. Here are some of his tips on developing and maintaining great health with little in the way of aches and pains that he shared with ESPN as well as other past articles:

  • “You’ve got to keep moving. If you sit and watch TV on your backside all day, you’re going to die.”
  • “I’m 70 percent vegetarian…Everyone should get a juicer and put vegetables in it every morning. I think that is the great secret to health.”
  • “Sometimes people die from the medicine than from the disease.”
  • “I have unbelievable energy for 77. I still work on my ranch. I help the staff mix the cement; I help them carry poles…”
  • “I never say I need to retire and relax. I relax by what I do; what I do makes me relax.”
  • “The trouble with Americans is they don’t appreciate America enough…The young people want things for nothing.”
  • “When you come down the last nine holes, that’s when you’ve got to be fit, that’s when you have to combat the nerves.”
  • “I visited a chiropractor recently, and he said, ‘You shouldn’t be able to walk. You’ve hit millions of balls, and your spine shouldn’t be holding up to it, but your core is so strong that you manage to keep going.”
  • “I like to mix it up so my body doesn’t know what’s happening, but no matter what I chose, my legs burn at the end.”

Player notes that the keys to his superb fitness and past golf triumphs include a strong core, strong legs, flexibility, a focused mind, and paying attention to what he eats. He spends a lot of time exercising his core muscle groups as a tool to take care of his back despite all of the strain put on his spine for so many decades on the tour. (Player does 1200 sit-ups each day!) Working his legs is also really important and a great example of that is he built stairs in the back of his ranch in South Africa so he and his wife could climb each day. Player doesn’t just exercise his body, either, noting that he spends 30 minutes a day meditating to help stay mentally sharp.

So why bring up this unique case about a gentleman who seemingly has no real pain problems to speak of and looks good enough to pose naked in front of a camera at the ripe old age of 77 despite all of the strenuous physical work his body did over the years? Well, I think we all would like to have his zest and good health at any age, and he seems to have a winning formula on how to get there. For example, I found his extensive leg workouts to be interesting because our society is so much more sedentary than it used to be. We walk and climb much less than our forefathers, yet Player would argue that our legs provide the supportive foundation that we really need to take care of the rest of us. Perhaps weaker legs means more of the load is shifted to places like our spines and hips thereby contributing to the large prevalence of low back pain that we see today? Maybe his exhausting daily core exercise program is another reason that he has not been plagued by back pain at this stage of his career, and perhaps “70 percent vegetarian diet” is the reason he feels so energetic?

I’m sure Gary Player has had many blessings and his fair share of good fortune in his life, but you can’t take away what he earned, including his trophies and his health.


Bridget's picture

Wow! Very impressive. I've been seeing more and more recently about how our lifestyle choices affect our longevity, and what often gets left out is whether or not those extra years are healthy years. There are a lot of things we can do to help increase the chances of staying healthy as we age.

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