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A woman who never worked out until age 66 says a simple exercise routine helped her lose 50 pounds and stabilize her blood sugar

a close up of a person in workout leggings and gym shoes performing a resistance band exercise outdoors
Resistance band exercise is great for longevity. microgen/Getty Images
  • Patty Branch started exercising in her late 60s and said it transformed her life and health.

  • She started with walking and now stays motivated with the community fitness program Silver Sneakers.

  • Research shows building balance, stability, and strength can add healthy years to your life.

It's never too late to start exercising for a longer life, according to a 70-year-old woman whose health metrics transformed after she started a new workout regime.

Patty Branch, from Ohio, was struggling with chronic health conditions as she neared retirement several years ago.

Her doctor recommended exercising more, which didn't give her much hope. She had never exercised in her life and felt it was probably too little too late. Still, she knew she needed a change and started walking. Before long, she was logging more and more steps, and even became a regular at community workout classes.

At the start, Branch told Business Insider, she was on the cusp of prediabetes, with debilitating nerve pain. Over time, her blood sugar started to stabilize. Within four years, Brand had lost more than 50 pounds. When she hit 70, she had far more daily energy than she'd had in her 60s.

She now works out three times a week with SilverSneakers, a program with online and in-person fitness classes for adults over 65 at no cost with eligible Medicare plans.

"It's been such a positive thing that I can't tell you what it's done for me physically, emotionally, psychologically, and especially for my health," she said.

Branch said exercise doesn't have to leave you sore, burned out, or deprived, no matter what age you start.

Stress worsened her health issues over the years

Branch said her health journey started in her late 60s. As she was thinking of retirement, illnesses in her family led to a stressful schedule, including long drives to the hospital.

"My weight was going up very quickly. My doctor had been trying to very politely tell me over the years that my blood pressure was out of control. I had sleep apnea, high cholesterol, everything," Branch said. "It's not the way you're supposed to start retirement."

She was on the verge of prediabetes and was diagnosed with neuropathy in her feet, a painful condition involving nerve damage that can cause an intense burning sensation.

She went from 'total couch potato' to looking forward to her workouts

Branch knew she needed to make a change, but had joined gyms before and found it difficult to stay motivated.

"You spend hundreds of dollars and you go a couple of times and it's like, 'Ugh, this is too much work.' And I always quit," she said. "I was just a total couch potato."

What got her moving was making a simple goal to fit more steps in her day, starting with 5,000 at first.

It worked — walking helped her start to lose weight and improve her health, and she now hits closer to 10,000 steps a day.

Then, Branch got into group workouts, thanks to a friendly instructor who persistently invited her to classes when they ran into each other around town.

The sessions, about 50 minutes long, include a mix of resistance band exercises, weights, exercise balls, and a lot of lighthearted fun. Many of the workouts involve social role-playing activities — Branch said one class session left her out of breath from laughter as she and a partner pretended to

"It's just a hoot," she said. "You never quite know what to expect. But it's fun and it keeps us moving."

A group of older adults in blue T-shirts doing chair exercises as part of a SilverSneakers fitness class.
Patty Branch has been attending SilverSneakers community workouts for a year, and said she boosted her energy, improved her health, and lost weight while having fun.Courtesy of SilverSneakers

Building muscle and motivation — 2 secrets to a long, healthy life

The workouts also emphasize key factors in longevity and healthy aging, such as balance and stability.

Branch also said she's building muscle, which is one of the major benefits of strength training and can help boost health and extend lifespan.

Branch said the community provides great workout motivation.

"On those mornings when I don't feel like getting up and going, I feel like I would be letting everyone else down, including myself. It just gets my day going," Branch said.

As for her health, her blood sugar is back in the normal range, and her nerve pain has significantly improved.

"My primary physician is thrilled," she said.

Correction: an earlier version of this article said Silver Sneakers is available through eligible Medicaid participants. It is eligible through Medicare, the health insurance program for older adults.

Read the original article on Business Insider