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The key to a healthier and longer life varies. Exercise is one of them and a testament to all that is the story of 80-year-old and ex-Olympic gymnast Finn Kauko Heikkinen. Even at his age, it has become quite befuddling how he can still keep in shape and do strenuous stuff such as kitesurfing – a sport usually limited to folks in their prime.

Heikkinen has always led an active life. As far as kitesurfing is concerned, the ex-Olympian started taking it up in 2000 when he was already 63. Prior to that, he was into windsurfing and also did some daily biking and swimming.

After a storied career, the octogenarian believed that not exercising was unthinkable.

“After my Olympic years, I never stopped being active, doing sports. Being active keeps me in shape. That’s my secret, exercising and eating healthily,” he explained.

Heikkinen had a long and memorable gymnastics career that took him to two Olympic Games. This included the one in Rome in 1960 where he finished 6th and in the Tokyo 1964 meet where he came in 40th.

He would, later on, become the women’s national gymnastics coach, something that led to him to do fun things.

“I exercise every day, basically, doing about 40 kilometers (25 miles) of biking a week, and some swimming and a bit of gymnastics two or three times a week.”

Out on the water, he glides, he soars, he falls — but he always gets back up. His hobby takes him far from the retirement homes and bridge games frequented by many his age.

Photo credit: (Olivier MORIN / AFP)

Lamar Green


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