Ernestine Shepherd is a world champion bodybuilder. Before one could dismiss that with a “so what?” note, the Baltimore resident is 84.
The now legendary “6-pack granny” recently appeared in a video for Beyoncé’s “Black is King” album. The grandmother and retired school secretary proudly stands as a Guinness World Record holder for the world’s oldest female competitive bodybuilder.
On Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, Shepherd will join UnitedHealthCare to host “A Better You,” a health and wellness event aimed at helping African Americans approaching retirement and other Medicare beneficiaries learn more about Medicare and their health coverage options.
The online event promises to provide safe access to seniors’ resources and information to make informed health care coverage decisions before the annual Medicare Enrollment Period, which begins Oct. 15.
Virtual attendees will hear from Yohnnie Shambourger, former Mr. Universe and Shepherd’s trainer, who will share nutrition tips and walk through a series of exercises.
UnitedHealthcare’s Rita Tolbert plans to guide participants through a Medicare discussion, including eligibility requirements and enrollment windows.
“I always say and truly believe that age is nothing but a number. I won my first bodybuilding competition at the age of 71, after having lived a sedentary life,” Shepherd told the Baltimore Times.
“I feel better now in my 80’s than I did in my 40’s. Exercise and wellness are important to improve our quality of life at any age. People must listen to their bodies and do what works for them – going for a walk, doing some stretches from your seat, and even dancing while you cook. It’s about making movement part of your lifestyle.”
Shepherd said she began her fitness journey as a school secretary in 2007 when she participated in her first bodybuilding contest and won first place honors.
Three years later, Guinness formally presented her the title of World’s Oldest Performing Female Bodybuilder. She called working with Beyoncé an incredible experience."She recruited me to appear in the music video for the song ‘Power,’ which celebrates the beauty and power of Blackness. When I arrived on-set, she approached me and gave me a big hug,” Shepherd recalled. “She was truly wonderful, and the interaction highlighted that anything is possible, regardless of your age.”
Because staying fit and creating healthy habits are essential, Shepherd has maintained a daily routine. “Typically, I start my day at 4 a.m. and go for a 10-mile run/walk, followed by strength training around 7:30 a.m. I then lead exercise classes at the local gym until 11:30 a.m. and return home for lunch,” she said.
“I have five to six meals a day, which often includes oatmeal, baked white potatoes, chicken, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and tuna. I also supplement my protein intake with 8-ounce glasses of liquid egg whites throughout the day.”
Shepherd and UnitedHealthCare suggest that now more than ever, African Americans approaching retirement need the information to make informed coverage decisions, which is the goal of “A Better You!”
“The last thing you want to do is worry about your coverage options once you need medical attention. Just like forming healthy lifestyle habits, ensuring that your health care coverage options meet your needs is an important way to take care of yourself,” Shepherd stated.
“If Medicare coverage has never crossed your mind, the best thing you can do right now is to learn about it. Understand your needs, learn the terminology, coverage options, and enrollment dates so that once you’re ready to make a decision, you have all the information you need to make an informed choice.
“It’s also important to understand health care if you have parents or loved ones approaching the age of eligibility or needing assistance with their coverage. Learn about the Medicare program so you can help them choose the right plan when the time comes. “
The event is free and open to the public, for more information or to register, visit http://ABetteryou.info/.