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Can you get fitter at 50 than you've ever been in your life?

Book offers advice on getting in the best shape of your life at 50

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(WKMG-TV)

ORLANDO, Fla. – It may not be easy, but exercise may be the key to hanging on to our youth.

That's the message in a book titled "Older, Faster, Stronger," by Margaret Webb. The book was a culmination of a yearlong effort to both transform her life and seek answers on how age and exercise are inter-related.

[WEB EXTRA: Click here for more on Margaret Webb ]

Webb's story starts when she was 48, and as she says, "staring down the notion of turning 50." She says she was suffering from a bit of midlife depression and looking for something to shake things up.

That's when a challenge from her sister to run a half-marathon changed her life. She says that while training she noticed her extra weight fell away, her mood brightened and she felt like her brain became rewired. She was more confident and just felt younger.

"So I thought I can push this notion even further," she says. "When I turn 50 I can make it a 'super-fit' year and try to achieve the fitness I had as a 20-year-old varsity athlete."

And so began her yearlong experiment. She pushed herself physically and set out to interview fitness experts and runners from around the world to unlock the secrets of their success. Some of the female runners she interviewed are setting world records into their 80s and 90s.

What she found was a consensus opinion, if we don't move our bodies, we'll age rapidly.

"The experts are saying we really need to rethink this notion of aging," she says. "Maybe as much as 70 to 80 percent of decline, the decline that happens with aging is not a result of aging but it's the result of inactivity." 

Her experiment paid off, Webb says her heart and lungs have the efficiency of someone half her age.

"Training for a marathon and going to the gym a couple of times a week and doing yoga in order to support that distance running really did restore my fitness to a level that astonished me," she said. "I truly believe I was fitter at 50 than I was at 20 by all sorts of metric and physiological measures." 

Shellane Demarest of Cassleberry found her fountain of youth in cross-fit. The 48-year-old says age is just a number, a number she's happy with.

"You have to, you know, accept that yes I'm not 21. But I don't want to be 21 again," she  said with a laugh. "I like my life now." 

Demarest says her life changed four years ago after suffering a knee injury. Immobile and putting on weight, she knew it was time for a change.

"I decided looking at myself that I no longer wanted to look the way I looked, She said. "I thought ahead and didn't want to end up like my parents that suffered poor health and unfortunately my mom was a victim to that."

Today she's a personal trainer who competes in cross-fit competitions and has a promising modeling career. A far cry from who she says she was in her 20's.

"When I show people the picture of me at 24," she said. "I wasn't sure about myself, I didn't like myself, I thought I was not attractive, I thought I was ugly."

Today she says she has the best of both worlds, confident, healthy and sure of who she is.

"Just because you're a certain age doesn't mean your life is over," Webb said. "If anything you're just beginning."

You can purchase "Older, Faster, Stronger" on Webb's website. It offers insight and tips for reaching your own "super-fit" year.


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