Bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s commitment to living a healthier life is a top priority at 76 years old. In a recent YouTube video with Tim Ferriss published on October 3, 2023, Schwarzenegger discussed his recovery from his 2018 open-heart surgery, mourned his best friend Franco Columbu, and opened up about wanting to live to 100.
As one of the greatest to ever don a pair of posing trunks, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding record has stood the test of time. En route to winning a total of seven Mr. Olympia titles (1970-75, 1980), Schwarzenegger, equipped with an imposing chest, huge arms, and tight waist, defeated iconic names of the Men’s Open which included former Mr. Olympias Frank Zane, Columbu, and Sergio Olvia.
While he’s long stepped away from competing at the highest level, Schwarzegger’s influence on the sport has continued in the form of the annual Arnold Sports Festival (founded in 1989) as well as his daily newsletter/podcast Arnold’s Pump Club — a publication dedicated to providing health and wellness tips, workouts, and information specifically curated by “The Austrian Oak” himself.
Having led a remarkable career outside of bodybuilding, Schwarzenegger is always giving back, and in his latest venture, the movie star revealed how he overcame some of the biggest health challenges of his life.
Arnold Schwarzenegger on Post-Op Challenges of 2018 Open-Heart Surgery, “The Simplest Things to Do Were Impossible”
According to Schwarzenegger, his open-heart surgery in 2018 was riddled with complications that threatened his life.
“2018 or 2019, it was 2018… and that was when I just went into a routine non-invasive aortic valve replacement, it goes through your arteries and your arms into your groins into your heart and then they replace your valve.
It’s just a standard procedure that they have now in the last 10 years. And you don’t have to perform open heart surgeries anymore because of it. It just happens to be in my case they had the difficult time some how they poked through the heart wall with the cable. So I got internal bleeding and they now had to perform an emergency open heart surgery.”
“I was out. The next thing I know that I wake up and I’m really happy that this is over, only to find out that I was having a breathing tube in my throat and I couldn’t talk and I saw three doctors in front of me not smiling but kind of having a concerned look on their face.”
“I’ve gotten out of open heart surgery where it could have cost my life and now they are telling me this next night or two is crucial so I don’t lose my life. I said, ‘What the hell kind of deal did I get into here?’ Anyways, the bottom line, it was… I had to connect quickly, shift gears and realize what has happened which takes you a while because you’re on drugs and medications and on the anesthesia somewhat. As I slowly started getting with the program I had to kind of shift gears and realize the simplest things were impossible to do,” Schwarzenegger shared.
Schwarzenegger explained that regular walking was his best defense against post-operation pneumonia.
“Couldn’t go to the bathroom, couldn’t get up, couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that,” added Schwarzenegger. “I started adjusting this and adjusting that and eventually I was able to get up a little bit and now the doctors said the key thing is to walk.”
Schwarzenegger Mourns Columbu: “If They Pass Away and Die, Something Dies In You”
In an emotionally charged memory, Schwarzenegger smiled with glee looking back on playing chess in his living room with his old friend Franco Columbu.
“To me, it’s not so much the shock as it is the ongoing missing a person… because there’s certain friends that have become a part of you. So if they pass away and they die, something dies in you. So when I imagine every day when I walk in my living room and I see this chess board, where Franco and I played chess for the last 10 years two or three times a week… and drank wine, smoked a stogie, and just talked. And we talked like 65-70-year-olds talk, rather than the way 20-year-olds talk like in the old days.”
“Franco I’ve known since I was 18 years old. Then our conversations were different than they were as of the last 10 years. We would talk about kids, we would talk about family, we would talk about where we grew up, about the past, more deeper conversations and more emotional conversations. And now, all of a sudden you’re every day when you walk in your living room you see this chess table in the corner, and Franco is not sitting there anymore. That to me, you know is heartbreaking.”
In addition, Schwarzenegger always thinks of Columbu when he rides his bicycle.
“When I go to the gym and I drive down with the bicycle and Franco came on the bicycle, he was not good at bicycle riding he was all over the place – that was funny and I had people sometimes videotape him just to show how goofy he looks on a bicycle. I think maybe the bicycle was too high up maybe that’s what the problem was.”
Schwarzenegger Talks Living to Be 100 and Reveals Daily Challenges of Preserving Youth
Schwarzenegger says he’s endured numerous health concerns during his life. One of his latest was a recent nerve surgery on his elbow, and while it was successful, Schwarzenegger was still left with a massive bruise.
“You realize, ‘Okay, between 50 and 60, it’s the knee punishment.’ So I have to watch my knees. Then, after your 70 you say for the first time, ‘I notice myself walking less. Why am I walking less? I used to love hiking four or five miles up the steep mountain.
Why am I walking less?’ Then I realized that I got back pain when I walk a long time I started getting cramps in my back. So I started walking less so I started doing stretching exercises for the back. It’s things like that start creeping up and then you have to start being really disciplined, like ‘I still have so many miles a day, so many steps a day, blah, blah.’ But you have ot make it come to yourself sort of natural. Then you have shoulder surgery in both surgeries.
Then, yesterday I had elbow surgery because my nerve had to be kind of relocated because where the nerve was… it created pressure on my nerve and therefore my little fingers started getting numb. So, now that comes in, that’s in the late 70s. All of sudden, what’s up with the nerves and someone talks to you about neuropathy about your legs and feet. This is how it just creeps up on you all this stuff,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger believes the lifespan can “stretch” with “really healthy” living, though cautioned that his dad only lived to be 66.
“The time you’re born, your time cut is set. It’s set. That only thing that changes it is you.”
“Let’s say I’m sick at 85, I can decide, do I want to go to 90? Yeah, I can do that but I have to live really healthy. Someone else has said, ’90, you can live to 100.’ You can stretch it a little bit. And you can also fuck it up big time.”
“My dad wiped out at 66.”
This wasn’t Schwarzenegger’s first time publicly talking about his harrowing open-heart surgery experiences. Calling the ordeal a disaster, Schwarzenegger said his recovery wouldn’t have been possible without the help and kindness of his friends.
Having once been the world’s best-built man, Schwarzenegger admits aging has been a difficult pill to swallow. Forging ahead, Schwarzenegger plans to continue making health and longevity his main concerns in life.