When 65-year-old fitness guru Denise Austin hit the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit runway at Miami Swim Week Saturday at Paraiso Miami Beach with 29-year-old daughter, fitness influencer Katie Austin, for a split second it was hard to tell which one was the mother and which one was the daughter. It only took a moment however to notice Denise’s highly energetic runway walk and see the queen of 90’s fitness VHS tapes was having the time of her life alongside her SI Swimsuit model daughter.
Austin, who has sold more than 25 million of those VHS tapes and DVDS throughout her 40-year career, is obviously no stranger to the lights and cameras, but she says this runway walk was a highlight because of the special moment shared between mother and daughter. Here, she describes what that experience was like, how she remains so youthful and how she’s now shifted with the times to reach women over 50 and help them achieve their best bodies and best lives.
You are in your 60s and look amazing. What do you attribute your youthfulness to?
“My lifestyle. I truly believe it has been all these years, 40 years, of staying fit, being in the fitness industry and leading and inspiring women with the hope that if you stay in shape, you’ll be healthy. If you have a good attitude, when you hit your 60s you will feel young, energetic and you will feel better. I want to inspire women of all ages to keep going—it’s worth it. Being this age is so fun. You get to do what you want to do you and you feel good. And staying healthy with a good attitude is truly what kept me going all these years.”
What was it like sharing the runway with Katie and having that special moment together?
“This has been the most special moment as a mom. Just to see your daughter, to walk with her, and have her hugging me on the runway. I’m bursting with pride and bursting with joy. I feel like it’s such a moment that will last for a lifetime and she can tell my grandkids, her children, and just to have that wonderful bond I have with her. I’m actually so proud of her for being such a wonderful daughter and allowing me to join her.”
You have this amazing history as a household name in fitness. Were you ever approached and asked to be a swimsuit model when you were younger?
“No, it wasn’t even on my radar. I didn’t ever think I could do it.”
So, you were always fitness focused?
“Well, as far as the fitness lifestyle, I always knew I wanted to help people feel better about themselves. My fitness is kind of a platform to make women feel good about themselves. I feel like I can give some good energy to women to make them feel better about themselves because that’s really my mission in life.”
How did you get your start on TV and making the videos many of us grew up watching?
“As a little girl I was a gymnast, and I got a full athletic scholarship to college and gymnastics. I really feel like that was a wonderful foundation for me and then I got my degree in exercise physiology. I was there in 1981 when aerobics was just beginning, so I was able to create my own vision of how I wanted to help women and it was through fun aerobics. I first started on The Jack LaLanne Show, he gave me my start on television. Then, I got my own show on K ABC by 1983. Then I did the Today show, and it went to 10 years on ESPN, then Lifetime TV.
Throughout my 40 years in fitness, I’ve sold 25 million exercise VHS tapes and DVDs. Now, I’m doing streaming, so I’m evolving as the world has changed. Both my daughters keep me young and relevant. My oldest daughter Kelly does meditations and Reiki, she’s very mindful. Katie followed in my fitness footsteps, so I feel like I’ve inspired them to live the healthier lifestyles and help other women feel good.”
When did you know that Katie was going to be your mini-me?
“As a young girl, she loved being behind the camera when I would film my TV shows. She was always watching and learning when she was very young, and she was always wanting to be with me and watch me. She was in one of my first videos we did with kids, and you could just see her joy in it. When she was young, she was focused on lacrosse. It wasn’t until she got into college and tried out for a position at USC on TV and realized she loved it and felt like that was passion, so she started fitness. Even during her last year in college, she was already helping to create an app. She was very entrepreneurial, and she’s the one that got me on Instagram. I’m so proud of her and we share such a passion for helping women. She really is a great role model for young girls.”
How was it being part of such a diverse lineup that was so inclusive and representative of so many women?
“It was such a great feeling. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor-in-chief MJ Day creates a beautiful feeling of a family. It starts from the top, so you want every woman to feel part of this and to feel like you’re special. It was the best feeling to be with all these wonderful women who are so smart. They each have something special to share and women all over can feel that they see themselves and that’s what I think is so truly special. She’s created this wonderful feeling and it’s really inspiring to see someone who cares deeply about the program and the whole magazine and how it makes other women feel.”
What should everyone over 50 be doing to stay in shape?
“My focus now is helping women over 50. We’re really not looked at and we need more support. I feel like I have a platform now to help women in this age group. I have a magazine called Fit Over 50, and with my website and social media I really want women to realize that there’s so much fun in being our age.
Walking is the best way to start. I just love to walk with my sisters, with my best friends. It’s such a great way to connect. Everyone can get out there and feel nature and feel some sunshine. You get fresh air. Oxygen equals energy. You can just start with 10 minutes a day to kick off your morning. It’s such a wonderful way to get in a good mindset for your day and feel grateful for every day. I truly live that way and I think that’s helped me through the years through menopause. I believe that if you think positively and remain optimistic, you get through the hard days. A good lifestyle can start with a nice thought, like, ‘I really want to try my best to eat healthier today.’”