Ask the expert
Advice from Margaret: WNY’s best-toned 61-year-old!

By Donna Evans-Deyermond

Margaret Richards was blessed by being born with good genes. As a small child, she studied ballet and had the luck and the body to be chosen to play the role of the plantation owner’s child in the original South Pacific on Broadway in 1964. The good genes held up until Richards was in her thirties and had her second child.

“All of a sudden it was more difficult. My regular ballet classes weren’t doing the job,” she says. “So I attended a class that was more exercise-oriented and took what I had learned back to my ballet teachers with the idea they might want to add an exercise-dance class to their curriculum.

“But they didn’t want to teach exercise so they said ‘why don’t you do it?’ And that’s how it all started.” It wasn’t long before Richards, who was living in Tallahasse, Florida, at the time, had opened her own dance/exercise studio called Body Electric. Serendipitously, the office next door housed a cable TV station, and one thing led to another. There weren’t many people combining dance with exercise in those days, so what Richards had to offer was unique.

“The two young men running the TV station asked me to do an exercise show that was so successful it wasn’t long before the local PBS station approached me about carrying it. Soon the show was carried all over the country,” she says. “I decided to franchise and started to do videos.” Several years later, Richards relocated to Orchard Park.

Over time she found that although her exercise program gave her enough of a workout aerobically, it wasn’t maintaining muscle tone. It was time to add some weight training. If she can get one message out, Richards says, it’s that people of any age can be strong and fit. Richards, at sixty-one, was born the first year of the baby boom. She has just published a book, Body Electric, based on her philosophy, television shows and the many DVDs she has developed.

“It’s just not the exclusive right of those who are under fifty years of age to have a toned body. Everyone can have strong muscles and bones,” she says. “I don’t want our generation to be sedentary. We need to have strong bones and muscle, and you can only get that through resistance.”

Richards tells the story of hearing an over-fifty woman at the beach say she was glad she had reached the age where it didn’t matter what she looked like in a bathing suit. Not the right attitude, in Richards’s view. “It’s true that you can’t do much about the skin as you age—especially if you’ve got sun damage,” she says. “But at least if you maintain muscle tone you’ve got something decent to drape it over.”

An added benefit is that when you train with weights the pull of the muscle on the bone keeps bones strong, reducing the risk of fracture. One of the big objections to exercise is the time it takes, but Richards’ program minimizes that time. She does say you need to do at least thirty minutes of aerobic exercise almost every day: walking, running, swimming, whatever you like the best. Adding her weight training program will take just one hour of your time, every three days.

“There are twelve major muscle groups and my program works each of those groups for three and a half minutes each workout,” she says. “I tell people to put the kitchen timer on. It doesn’t matter how many reps you do, what’s important is being slow and controlled and having the correct form.”

Richards recommends using free weights, starting with a light one and building up to heavier weights when you feel you are no longer challenged. There should be some soreness because of microscopic muscle tears, which is why you leave three days between workouts. As the muscles rebuild they gain strength. And since you are working the twelve muscle groups, you can do your whole body in one day or break your workouts down into as many muscle groups per day as you want. Just be sure to leave three days before working the same group again.

“Your muscles will get stronger, no matter what your age,” Richards says. There’s no doubt it’s great to be born with good genes, but what you put in your bathing suit later in life depends on how you exercise the body those genes gave you. If you are interested in training with Richards, or getting more information on her program, you can contact her at 662-0668,, or check out

Donna Evans-Deyermond works hard at having firm muscles to drape her skin over but is finding the sun worshiping she did as a teen somewhat defeats the purpose.


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