07/09/2012 12:55 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2012

Physically Active Women May Avert Alzheimer's Disease

Keep active, and you'll thrive. The more active you are, even in your older years, the more active you'll be able to stay for as many years as you're given. You may have to make a few adjustments to your lifestyle as you age, but if you keep on living, you'll enjoy living your life, your way, for as long as possible. Here are three amazing women whose ages and abilities might surprise you. They all seem to contradict society's definition of old.

• She catches your attention, not because she looks old, but because she is climbing a hill with the ease of a much younger woman. On the Island of Capri, there is this beautifully tanned, Italian woman motoring up the hill toward the town square. The hill's grade is from 15-35 percent and a little more than a mile long. It's enough to make you not only huff but also puff watching her get to the top. About two hours later she is walking down the hill with a small bag in her hand.

On another day, it is 88 degrees outside and again, she is walking up the hill. She makes the long stair climb to the town square and stops near the top at a small grocery store. She shares a smile with a stranger as she exits. The stranger asks the clerk about the woman. The clerk replies, in broken English, that she is in her 80's and she comes into the store every day to buy milk and then walks home again -- not because she needs the milk, but because she likes the walk.

• At a ski apparel store, an elderly woman greets a customer. She stands ramrod straight and is very pleasant. She shows the customer around the store and provides an advertisement for each piece. The customer asks her if she has ever skied. She smiles and says, "Yes, I'm going up to Park City next week." Although she appears to be in her late 70's, she is in great shape. The customer asks questions about her activity: "Do you ski all day?" "Why yes," she says. "Do you ski on steep slopes?" The customer is making an assumption that her age should equal her ability. She then adds, "Well actually, I am in a downhill slalom race. I get up to 70-80 miles per hour. People say I shouldn't still race at my age, but I love it and have been doing it for over 60 years." The customer's jaw drops; still, he wants to peg her age to her ability. "Don't you worry about getting hurt?" he mutters. "Well, I broke a finger when I was 54 but am more careful now," she concludes. The customer is stunned.

Later, the customer meets a friend who knows the ski apparel store clerk. He explains that the clerk is 82 and was a ski instructor in Sun Valley for more than 40 years. She is still one of the fastest racers in the Masters class. And she has no plans for slowing down.

• At nearly 77 years old, this woman is exceptional about trying new things. She is not bashful about jumping off a boat in Hawaii and swimming a few laps around it. Last summer, she joined relatives for a nice long bike ride; although she hadn't been on a bike in over a decade, she rode 12 miles with them. She thrives on being in motion and not letting her age determine her activity. It is the little strides in motion that keep her healthy: walking her dog, going for a hike and swimming in the community pool. She also believes that the activities she continues to participate in (Bridge Club, Art Museum Board) keep her engaged and they allow her to stay both mentally and physically active. Her attitude is inspiring.

You don't have to be an incredible athlete to keep in motion; you just have to keep in motion. Women who remain physically active throughout life have sharper memory and thinking skills and they're better able to ward off Alzheimer's disease into old age. Don't let your age fool you or anyone else into thinking your life is over. Staying active and taking care of yourself is the best way to live a long and happy life, no matter what your number.

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