Ruth Kobin turned 100 years old in September, and she was up for the celebration: Not only did she have several dinners with family and friends, but she took off on a cruise to Bermuda, where she was enthralled to discover that she could still dance. But it’s no surprise, really: Despite her age, Ruth is nimble and fit, thanks to a regular exercise regimen of pilates, weight lifting and stretching.
We originally found out about Ruth through Advanced Style, where she has been featured for her beauty and style, but we wanted to know more about how she’s stayed healthy for so long. So we talked to Ruth and paid a visit to her Manhattan apartment to get some photos of her exercise routine. If we get to be her age, we only hope we look and feel as good as she does:
What is your exercise routine like these days?
I take pilates once a week at the West Side Jewish Community Center on 75th and Amsterdam. It’s a huge place, like the YMCA, and they have a pilates studio in the building. I do exercises on the Cadillac reformer and I really can say that I feel much better after doing it.
At home I have a mat which I roll out and I do a series of exercises, including pilates and some from different therapies I’ve had due to an injury and basically a lot of stretching. I also lift weights at home. That’s what I do on my own.
I really can’t say enough about how wonderful and helpful pilates is. Keeps me moving!
How long have you been doing pilates?
About ten years or maybe more. But I’ve always exercised all my life, in some form or another. When I was introduced to pilates, that was it: It answered all of my problems.
What kind of problems has it helped with?
Particularly with the lower back, and posture, definitely posture. I would say those were the two primary helps and of course it develops muscles because you’re using your own muscles on the machine. The machine doesn’t do the work—you do.
How did you become so active?
I started out studying dance when I was young, at the age of nine, and I stayed with that for 14 years, and after that I continued in other forms. And I’m very blessed with my family: I have two wonderful daughters and 16 great grandchildren, so it keeps me on my toes.
How do you stay motivated to exercise?
I talk to myself! I say: “Just get down there on the floor and exercise. Just do it!” That’s what I say. It’s true, actually. I live alone and take care of myself, and I do my own cooking except when I’m out, and there are many days when I don’t feel like doing it but I push and I make myself do it. It’s not easy, but I know how beneficial it is and how I really need it. My body tells me: “You need it, do it.”
So it takes a lot of discipline, there’s no question about that.
Do you follow a special diet to stay healthy?
I’ve never dieted. I keep the same weight all the time, about 116 to 118 pounds, and I eat three meals a day and I usually don’t eat in between unless I’m gonna have a late dinner. I eat very sensibly. I eat cereal and fruit in the morning and at lunchtime I either have a sandwich or chef’s salad and in the evening I have my vegetables and usually fish or chicken and fruit and that’s it.
And I guess I’m fortunate that I’m allergic to nuts—consequently, I never eat candy, because when I have an allergic attack it’s lethal. I mean seriously, the last one I ended up in the hospital in critical condition. But it doens’t keep me from ice cream and pies.
What’s your advice for maintaining health as you get older?
Keep active, that’s my advice. And if you can’t do serious exercise, at least walk. And even if you can’t walk, there are stretching exercises that are very helpful. There’s no excuse not to move. If you’re able to move, you’re able to do some form of exercise.
As a child I was always active, I lived in Minnesota, where in the winter we skied, toboganed and skated, and in the summer we played tennis and went swimming. So I started out at a very young age and kept it up all my life. But it’s never too late, I don’t care what age you are, if you’re moving at all, you can find a form of exercise.
You know there was a wonderful Elizabeth Arden ad years ago, that showed a very attractive young woman, and it said underneath: “If you want to look like this when you’re 40, start when you’re 20.” I think that applies to more than your skin, so in other words: Keep busy, keep crossword puzzles going. I’m a big football enthusiast, I scream for the Giants on Sunday, I followed golf when my husband was alive, so I can still enjoy watching it now, and I love reading.
And I am not wired. I do not have a computer, I write letters and send out birthday cards in my own handwriting, and I attribute that to keeping my brain going. Don’t be passive.