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96-year-old woman inspires thousands by lifting 53-pound barbell with the most gracious smile ever

'She's shown up for every session, worked hard and just last week she pulled 53 pounds from the floor,' the gym said.

96-year-old woman inspires thousands by lifting 53-pound barbell with the most gracious smile ever
Cover Image Source: Twitter / Starting Strength Cincinnati

There are very who embody the saying "if you put your mind to it, you can do it." Despite the fact that her physicians had given up hope in her regaining mobility, a 96-year-old lady continues to lift weights like a true champion. A video of the senior lifting a barbell while smiling graciously has made the internet happy and encouraged thousands of netizens to never give up. The video was uploaded by Starting Strength, a gym in Cincinnati, Ohio, which shared the incredible story of the smiling weightlifter named Merce.

In their Instagram post about Merce's fitness journey, the gym revealed that after a mishap a few years ago resulted in damaged vertebrae, Merce had trouble walking and needed a walker. The elderly woman and her son Mark were dissatisfied with the recommendations made by doctors and specialists. In February 2022, Mark took his mother to the gym.


"Mark had a suspicion that getting stronger could help his mom, so he brought her out to an open house and the rest is history. All of the barbell movements can be modified to meet a trainee's capabilities. And everyone... yes, EVERYONE, can get stronger. Merce started with a very high rack pull (just a few inches in range of motion) at 11 pounds. She’s shown up for every session, worked hard and just last week she pulled 53 pounds from the floor... smiling the whole time in traditional Merce fashion," the post caption said.

People today love to maintain a healthy lifestyle through frequent exercise and a balanced diet. Embracing habits that keep us strong and active becomes increasingly important as we grow older. Joan MacDonald is one such individual who decided to reevaluate her lifestyle when a doctor's appointment revealed that her health was fast worsening. She was taking many drugs at the age of 70 for acid reflux, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Doctors advised her to increase her medications until she made significant lifestyle changes. "I knew I had to do something different," the 76-year-old told Shape. "I had watched my mom go through the same thing, taking medication after medication, and I didn't want that life for myself."


Soon, MacDonald started doing yoga, going for walks as a sort of exercise and even starting to lift weights. She initially concentrated on increasing her general strength and stamina. At first, she was simply exercising as much as she could while staying safe because she was a less-than-fit 70-year-old lady. She eventually worked up to going to the gym for two hours five days a week. "I'm very slow, so it takes me almost double the time to finish a regular workout," explained MacDonald. She also benefited from having a regimen. MacDonald said, "I just get my workout done first thing in the morning."


Although MacDonald initially wanted to shed pounds as quickly as possible, she is now more focused on achieving particular strength goals in the gym and challenging herself to feel strong and powerful. "I've been focusing on performing pull-ups without help. I've been working on doing unassisted pull-ups. I was actually able to do a few just the other day, but I'd like to be able to do it like all the youngins. That's my goal," she said.

MacDonald added that achieving her objectives requires little more than commitment and perseverance, and she still continues to advocate for women of all ages to be in their best shape and self. "We are strong [and] capable of change, but we're often viewed as fragile. I hope that more women my age embrace being pushed and appreciate that someone is interested in seeing you try harder. Even though you can't turn back the clock, you can wind it up again," she said.


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