The Middle Ages

Meet some fit, strong executives over age 50

October, 2007

As people age, they naturally lose strength, and their muscle mass decreases. That’s not the case for Steven Gold, Sharon Serene and Ted Taketa, participants in the “above 50” category of Hawaii’s Fittest CEO competition. These executives are in stellar shape. Together, they log more than 20 hours per week in cardio, strength and resistance training.

Taketa, 52, president and chief executive officer of Starcom Builders Inc., is the flexible one. He walked into his first yoga class at the Honolulu Club three years ago and now attends three times a week. Recalls Taketa, “When I first started, I could barely get past my knees when bending over. I can now put my hands on the ground.”

This Hilo native says he practically lives at the gym, spending one hour on the elliptical trainer at least five times a week. Taketa also watches what he eats: oatmeal with raisins, fruit and egg whites for breakfast; and white meat, vegetables and grains for lunch and dinner. Sometimes, he’ll give in to red-meat cravings. “Without your health, you don’t have anything,” he says. “Life is short. I want to enjoy it and want my employees to enjoy it, too.”

Serene, 59, is the biggest loser in the group – having dropped 60 pounds in two years. “When I turned 57, I couldn’t accept the fact that once women hit 50, they would [gain weight] and look a certain way,” Serene says. “I was having trouble getting up and down from chairs. I was getting backaches, and my knees were bothering me.’”

She hired trainer Mike Hann two years ago and meets with him three times a week. In fact, Hann was at her side during the Fittest CEO competition. “He was so supportive, in my ears, saying, ‘You can do it. Don’t quit,’” she recalls.

She credits her transformed body to Hann’s coaching and healthy eating. For breakfast, she’ll have a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with cinnamon, or an egg-white omelette with spinach, green onions, fat-free feta cheese and salsa. A few hours later: A protein bar or drink, or cheese and an apple. For lunch: A chicken salad. For a pre-workout snack: Cottage cheese and fruit, and another fruit after exercising. For dinner: more protein and vegetables, or a South Beach Diet frozen meal.

“I felt like the Pillsbury Dough Boy with my water bottle at the gym when I first started,” she recalls. “But once I got started, I loved it. It was like waking up a sleeping giant.”

Fitness wasn’t always on Gold’s mind. It was about four years ago when he began pondering his own mortality. His late father smoked; his late mother had Alzheimer’s; and his older friends constantly complained of health problems. Plus, the small-size staff at School Kine Cookies made it impossible for Gold to be sick or injured. “My priority was always business, but through the help of my trainer, who kept on saying, ‘How will your business run successfully if you’re laid up or injured?’ I began exercising.” Gold’s strength training has paid off: He now is able to lift heavy boxes of cookies without straining his back.That’s how Gold, 59, feels when he works with professional trainer Bill Maeda, three times a week for an hour and a half. Together, they focus on endurance, flexibility, core strength and stability. “He varies my program so much that it doesn’t get boring,” says Gold, president of School Kine Cookies. On non-trainer days, Gold does body-weight exercises in his apartment and runs at Kapiolani Park, because “the mushy grass is better on the knees.”

For these three executives, turning 50 years old was the spark that led them to healthy lifestyles. And as a result, they say they have turned back the clock. Taketa sums it up best: “I still feel psychologically as young as I did when I was in my 30s and 40s.”



Forget wrinkle creams, Botox and hair implants. The best antiaging remedy is exercise. Doctors recommend 30 minutes of exercise daily, even if it’s for 10-minute increments. If you are age 50 and older, your workout program should consist of four activities:

  • Flexibility (to prevent injuries and falls; and to help with physical activity, such as driving and putting on your shoes)
    • Balance (also to prevent injuries and falls; and to help with daily routines, such as getting off the sofa or bed)
    • Endurance (to strengthen your heart; to lower your cholesterol; and to prevent diseases)
    • Strength (to help with physical activity, such as carrying groceries and lifting grandchildren)

Consult your doctor before starting a fitness program – even if you regularly exercised in your younger years. Talk to your doctor if you have the following health conditions: dizziness or shortness of breath; blood clots; chest pain; a fluttering, racing or skipping heart; diabetes, a heart condition and other chronic diseases; joint swelling or foot sores; fever and infection; sudden weight loss; eye or hip surgery; and other new symptoms.

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Cathy S. Cruz-George