Fit After 50 Challenge – Exercise As If Your Life Depends On It

If anyone has the credibility to tell us baby boomers how to stay fit, it just might be Patsy Shropshire, the physical therapist who recently won the “Fit After 50 Member Challenge” with the American Physical Therapy Association. And we can boil it down to a sentence: Exercise As If Your Life Depends On It.

Not to sound overly dramatic, but for the women I treat as a physical therapist, exercise can mean the difference between quality of life and practically no life at all.

Patsy Shropshire, the physical therapist who won the “Fit After 50 Member Challenge” with the American Physical Therapy Association.

Patsy Shropshire, the physical therapist who won the “Fit After 50 Member Challenge” hosted by the American Physical Therapy Association.

I run a health and wellness group in Dallas for 20 women who primarily are in their 50s and 60s. They have survived breast, uterine, and thyroid cancer as well as leukemia and MS.

They are women with balls. Stability balls, that is.

These “Women With Balls” do weight training while balancing on stability balls. They also run, speed-walk, stretch, and do yoga. Every year they compete in the Dallas Marathon Relay and a Christmas Fun Run that we host for a charitable cause.

The physical challenges for most of these women have been a wake-up call to change their lives. One of our members, a professor with leukemia, underwent a bone marrow transplant and credits exercise for her survival. Another is several weeks out from a double mastectomy. While she waits to see what her next treatment will be, she’s doing fast walks and some easy runs.

Stability Balls-2I’ve been a physical therapist for more than 25 years and believe the more one learns about the human body, the more motivated she or he will be to exercise. That’s why I teach women about anatomy, posture, proper nutrition, and injury and disease prevention. This is where physical therapy makes all the difference — designing a program based on evidence that takes preexisting conditions into account and teaching people what they need to know to get better and stronger.

For me, exercise has been a part of my daily routine for most of my life. It doesn’t just provide physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. I love competitive runs, lifting weights, yoga, and teaching these concepts to others. I also have a veggie and fruit garden so I can feed my family fresh, organic food. My husband and I have four kids who are becoming more and more health conscious themselves. Exercise has been, and always will be, the answer for me.

As for Women With Balls, many have been a part of this program for more than ten years. One WWB participant told me, “This is the first sorority I’ve ever been in.” When it means something to you, you stick with it.

Legs On Fence-3


  1. Patsy
    Let me congratulate you and extend my best to someone who has inspired and been a first hand instructor, educator and participant in the life long pursuit of health and wellness. All who were nominated for the Fit After 50 Challenge each have a personal story as well as a message that we all need to be both role models and educators as well as caring individuals as both PT and as a person. Thank you for your story and inspiration to others.

  2. I am a 10 year Breast Cancer Survivor, and for the past 6 years I have been a part of the Women With Balls wellness group! Last year, I decided to have major breast reconstruction surgery involving the transfer of skin and muscle from my back (Latissamus Dorsi Flap). Because of the fact I entered into surgery in such excellent physical shape, the healing process was less difficult. (The plastic surgeon actually commented about my “great muscle structure”!) Although we work together as a group, Patsy still gives us individualized attention when we need it. In my case, Patsy suggested and demonstrated temporary modifications to certain exercises as my back strength improved. I am back to my “new” self…running, lifting weights, sit-ups, push-ups, yoga, and whatever fun, new thing Patsy wants to show us!
    They say in order to better stick to an exercise routine, you should find a “workout buddy”. I feel so lucky to have found something BETTER…a “Workout Team” with Patsy and all the other WWB’s !!!

    1. WWB is blessed to have you in the group, Jodi! You’re pure inspiration! Thanks for all the time, talent, and contributions you’ve made to WWB! Patsy

  3. I have been working out with Patsy for several years and I don’t know what I would do without her! To me Patsy’s philosophy is one of “Disease Prevention” through regular exercise and diet.

    Any of us who have exercised with Patsy have benefited with incredible positive physical changes such as, weight loss, more energy, and a smaller pants size. As a group, we have learned that exercise certainly makes us feel healthier but Patsy has helped us understand that exercise does actually make us healthier!

    Here are just a few things Patsy has taught me: As we age our immune systems start to fail but with regular exercise and a healthy diet our body will increase the number of cells that help fight infections like the flu and common cold. Other benefits are decreased heart disease by strengthening our heart muscle, decreased hypertension through increased elasticity of blood vessels, decreased diabetes via optimal weight and sugar stabilization, maintenance of normal muscle strength, joint function and structure, decreased arthritic processes, and prevention of stroke, obesity, and osteoporosis!

    WOW! With all these benefits who wouldn’t want to exercise with Patsy!

    1. The group would not be the same without you, Carla! Do you realize you’re giving free medical consults during those long runs? Thanks for the free “appetizer” flu shots every fall, year after year! Patsy

  4. I’ve been a part of WWB for about 5 years. I am the “old one” of the group, at age 66. What I have learned from Patsy is that while the age keeps going up, the the process of aging is so much of our own doing. She has an amazing ability to push us, while giving us the tools to make our health goals achievable, no matter what the age!

    1. Whoa! I thought you were 53! I don’t know any other woman your age who has such beautiful spinal extension, and, considering your bilateral rotator cuff repair, such amazing shoulder range of motion. You’re the perfect example of the awesome benefits of daily smart exercise. Keep it up! Thanks!

  5. I am so glad to have recently joined WWB with Patsy. As a physical therapist, she is so knowledgeable about the body. I’ve worked out with trainers before and have never learned this much about my body. Patsy is helping me deal with health issues with exercise and diet. Within the group setting, she makes it fun and keeps us all on track!

    1. You’re the perfect WWB!! So glad to have you! You were FAST last Friday….I’ve been too easy on you! Patsy

  6. Patsy,
    What an inspiration to all of us in the “over 50” crowd! Love your motto and the positive attitude you share with all of us in your t-DPT program at HSU. Keep up the great work!
    Marty Hinman

    1. Thanks, Dr. Hinman! I have loved the Hardin Simmons doctoral program. I’m blessed that you accepted me into the program, even when my application had numerous references to the phrase “Women With Balls.”

  7. Patsy,
    The work you are doing is amazing. As PT’s we really need to push the promotion of health through physical activity!!! There are so many people who can be impacted directly and indirectly. Reductions in onset, morbidity, and mortality from non-communicable and chronic diseases would drop drastically as would our health care burden!

    Keep up the great work. Your perspiration is my inspiration!!!

    1. Thanks, Dr O’Connell, for all your encouragement these last few months. Enjoyed your class (just not your final)! Look forward to meeting with you again…you’ve got a lot to offer! See ya in June! Patsy

    1. Definitely, Lorie! Your comment reminds me of this quote, “If exercise could be packed into a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation,” says Dr. Robert Butler, founding director of the National Institute on Aging. Couldn’t have been said any better! Thanks for your comment!

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