Mar 6 2013

100-year-old UMHS patient on exercise: “You’re never too old to start”

A gym for the 65-and-over crowd: Senior participants break a sweat at UMHS’s Functional Fitness class; one of program’s first-ever participants turns 100

In between chats with friends and quips with her fitness trainer, Margaret Rookes spent a recent morning walking on the treadmill, stepping on a NuStep and leg pressing 100 pounds.

When it comes to maintaining her three-times-a-week, 75-minute workout routine, Margaret makes no excuses – not even the fact that she just turned 100 years old.

Watch Margaret in action on Channel 4 Detroit!

“I wouldn’t be in this condition if I didn’t come here,” says Margaret, sporting white sneakers while switching between strength and cardiovascular machines and stretching exercises. “It’s kept me moving. It’s kept me young.”

At age 89, Margaret was one of the first three participants to enroll in the Functional Fitness for Older Adults class that started at the University of Michigan Health System more than a decade ago. The class, which is offered by the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for people age 65 and over, has since grown to more than 60 gym-goers.

For Margaret, the class offers a social outlet and place to connect with peers while improving her strength, balance, endurance and mobility – components that typically decline with age and can pose major health risks for older adults.

“I wouldn’t be in this condition if I didn’t come here. It’s kept me young,” says Margaret Rookes, 100. Margaret has been coming to UMHS’s Functional Fitness for Older Adults class since she was 89.

She says the class kept her so fit that at age 95, she was able to take a trip back to Bermuda – her home of five years in the 1930’s where she waitressed after college and met her late husband. Along with her daughter and son-in-law, she was able to visit all of her favorite landmarks and even walk up and down the 39-flight of stairs that took her from her beach cottage to the ocean.

“There’s no getting around it – I’m old,” says Margaret, sitting near a photo from her recent birthday celebration that pictures her with a bottle of sparkling cider under the caption “still partying at 100.” “Coming here is good for my body and mind. It gives me a reason to get out of bed every day. My doctor told me ‘whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.’”

The eight-week Functional Fitness For Older Adults class is intended to combat the detrimental physical and cognitive effects of aging such as muscle loss, worsened posture and balance, memory loss, bone loss and arthritis. After getting their doctor’s clearance, attendees are offered on-going instruction on exercise equipment in the PM & R’s Transitions Studio, which includes strengths, treadmills, bikes, elliptical bands and balls. Participants are also introduced to home exercises.

“This is about helping older adults get stronger and more confident in an effort to improve their quality of life,” says health educator Britt Michel, CSCS, director of UMHS’s Transitional Therapy Programs. “Everyone has different goals. Some want to be able to keep up with their grandkids or enjoy travel, while others want to simply climb a flight of stairs or work in their garden with greater ease.

Margaret Rookes chats with health educator Britt Michel, CSCS, director of UMHS’s Transitional Therapy Programs during her regular exercise routine at PM & R’s Transitions Studio.

“Margaret is a great example of how to live life to its fullest – even at 100.”

Margaret, who formerly worked at the U-M School of Dentistry, has battled several health issues, including high blood pressure, cancer and sciatica. She says her physician credits her exercise program for helping reduce some prescription medications.

“I think a lot of people think they’re too old to start going to the gym but they’re not. You’re never too old,” Margaret says. “I started at age 89 and kept going until 100 and look, I’m still here.”




More on Functional Fitness:

Classes meet for 75 minutes twice a week with sessions offered Mondays through Thursdays at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. All participants have access to the studio on Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon during the eight weeks.

The initial cost is $175 for eight weeks, which includes an exercise interview/consult, fitness assessment, equipment orientation and  eight weeks of classes (twice a week) with supervision.  Renewal cost is $100.

More details here:

For more information call (734) 232-1262 or email

16 Responses to “100-year-old UMHS patient on exercise: “You’re never too old to start””

  1. Janice says:

    What a great story! It gives me motivation to keep moving too!

  2. Deb says:

    I love seeing this – it’s a beautiful facility so it should be shown off! :) Great job!

  3. Marina Sarafian says:

    What a wonderful article!

  4. Lorraine says:

    No excuses! This woman keeps it real and it is very inpiring!

  5. Michelle says:

    Wow puts me to shame.. I guess I have no excuse. Good job you go girl!!

  6. Vicki Bennett says:

    Way to go Margaret!!! You are an inspiration to all of us!!!

  7. Renee says:

    Margaret you are an inspiration!

  8. suzanne says:

    did not know the class was out there! No excuses is right. Very inspiring article.

  9. Maureen says:

    What an inspiring Lady!

  10. Suzanne says:

    Margaret – all I can say is WOW!! I plan to live to be 103 yrs old and seeing you makes me know I can get there as I am only 58 now but working out and I will lift my glass to you and toast “Way to Go”. Looking forward to 65 so I can join in the fun.

  11. Toni Buys says:

    Great story, Beata. Gives me inspiration!

  12. Janet Ardis says:

    Great article Beata!!! I plan to be active and fit at age 100!

  13. Ashley says:

    What an inspiration! I would love to know this lady!

  14. Maribeth says:

    You are absolutely right! If you don’t use it, you lose it! Keep it going! You have such a positive attitude and are an inspiration. Thank you for showing others the way!

  15. Shel says:

    What! You mean I don’t have to start exercising until I’m 89? But seriously, this is a truly wonderful, and inspirational story! Ms. Rookes has been working out at the studio for 11 years and looks like she could easily go for another 11! Cheers to you, Ms. Rookes!

  16. Anitra says:

    Congratulations Margaret! It is such a pleasure to know you. Your upbeat attitude is contagious and inspiring.
    I look forward to joining you in the gym in April.

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