Exercise, peer support and a bit of luck is the secret to reaching 100

It has been longed stressed that exercise plays a vital role in overall wellbeing and health as well as longevity, something Kevin Ryan, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, is a great testament to.

Exercise, peer support and a bit of luck is the secret to reaching 100
Kevin Ryan and his fellow Department of Veterans' Affairs group regularly attend exercise programs at the Vario Health Clinic.

First published on Edith Cowan University

It's not every day you get to meet a centenarian who lifts weights weekly.

Edith Cowan University (ECU) was elated to celebrate long-time Vario Health Clinic client Kevin Ryan's 100th birthday.

It has been longed stressed that exercise plays a vital role in overall wellbeing and health as well as longevity, something Kevin is a great testament to.

Attending twice a week as part of the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) group, Kevin has been attending the Vario Health Clinic at the ECU Joondalup Campus for the past 15 years.

As part of ECU's Exercise Medicine Research Institute (EMRI), the Vario Health Clinic offers clinical exercise programs with a multidisciplinary approach including exercise physiology, physiotherapy, and dietetics. In addition to one-to-one consults, the Clinic delivers more than 50 evidence-based group sessions per week, uniquely tailored to the specific needs and conditions of each individual.

Speaking at the morning tea celebration, Director of EMRI Professor Daniel Galvão said that Kevin's 100 years was an incredible achievement.

"Exercise is such an important tool for physical and mental health, we are so pleased to have Kevin here to celebrate with the whole team," Professor Galvão said.

Kevin Ryan who turned 100 years old poses with his birthday cake, there are gold balloons shaped as the number 100 in the background.
Kevin Ryan celebrated his 100th birthday after an exercise class at the Vario Health Clinic.

Exercise and a little bit of luck

When asked what the secret was to his centenarian milestone, Kevin said luck.

"I didn't expect to get to 100, it has been a bit hectic, everyone wants to take me somewhere or celebrate," Kevin said.

"I appreciate all you've done for me, it was unexpected."

Perhaps luck may have played a part in Kevin's longevity but the association between exercise and longevity is well-established.

Deputy Director of EMRI Professor Rob Newton said that there's a myriad of well-established pathways by which exercise enhances longevity with the primary effect being the reduction of risk of developing chronic illnesses.

"I have no doubt, and Mr Ryan agrees, his regular exercise has contributed substantially to his quality of life as well as the length of his life," Professor Newton said.

"Maintaining physical function and the healthy capacity of the muscular and skeletal systems is also a major contributor."

Kevin Ryan and the Vario Health Clinic team pose with the birthday cake.
Kevin Ryan and the Vario Health Clinic team at EMRI.

The importance of peer support

Professor Galvão and Professor Newton both share that peer support also plays an important role in overall health and wellbeing and longevity.

The Vario Health Clinic actively foster a sense of community through specialised group exercise sessions for cancer patients and survivors, Veterans, people with ongoing chronic conditions and children with physical and developmental challenges.

“Equally important to Mr Ryan’s overall health and longevity is the improved mental health that accompanies regular exercise in particular when this is pursued with other people that support him,” Professor Newton said.

What about quality of life?

Despite people living longer thanks to advances in medical science, quality of life is a different matter as those who live longer often have a suboptimal quality of life.

Professor Newton explains there is a difference between lifespan and “health span”.

“Lifespan is the total number of years a person lives but "health span" is how many of those years a person remains healthy and free from disease and disability,” Professor Newton said.

“Absolutely without question, regular exercise is the largest contributor to ensuring a long health span.

“This is because exercise is the most effective medicine for reducing risk of chronic disease, treating chronic disease, and supporting a body which is structurally and functionally strong and healthy.”

Kevin Ryan and his fellow Department of Veterans' Affairs group pose with Professor Daniel Galvao with the birthday cake.
All smiles around for Kevin Ryan's 100th birthday.

Celebrating a centenarian

To celebrate Kevin's centenarian milestone together over birthday cake, fresh fruit and coffee was heartwarming for fellow members of the DVA group and the dedicated Vario Health Clinic team who have assisted Kevin with his exercise over the years.

ECU was delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge Kevin's achievement knowing that his regular exercise and peer support at the Vario Health Clinic continues to contribute to his quality of life.

Echoing what one member of the DVA group said at the morning tea, "Well, we love you Kev."

Find out more about the Vario Health Clinic and EMRI.


Professor Daniel Galvão

Professor Daniel Galvão

Daniel Galvão is Professor of Exercise Science and Director of ECU’s Exercise Medicine Research Institute.

Professor Rob Newton

Professor Rob Newton

Rob Newton is Professor of Exercise Medicine and Deputy Director of ECU's Exercise Medicine Research Institute.

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