81-year-old Cam Nguyen CEO shares her secrets for Women's Health Week


At 81, Cam Nguyen is CEO of the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association - still working full-time, leading the national organisation that supports women of Vietnamese and other migrant backgrounds settle in Australia. She credits her boundless energy to the exercise regime she took up in her 60s, one that includes the plank, the side plank and three sets of six push-ups. This Women’s Health Week Cam shares her inspiration story.

“When I am 64...” goes the lyrics. When I was 64, the board of the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association (AVWA) decided that to take our 21-year-old organisation to the next level of development, a CEO was needed.

I accepted the position, handing over my president’s role to the then vice-president. It was May 2004. In the financial year 2004-2005, the AVWA joined “The Millionaire Club” with turnover increasing to $1.15 million. In 2020-2021, income was $20 million+ and heading towards $25 million in 2021-2022.

With the income of the organisation having increased 25 times and the number of staff 13 times, the CEO’s workload has naturally increased in the last 17 years. Records show that I have taken only three days sick leave during the whole period.

How did I manage it? My current exercise program includes a target of 7000 steps daily, with a mix of walking in parkland, swimming and strength training, plus about 30 mins a day of floor exercises and Tai chi. My diet is simple and limited in calories, with more vegetables and fruit, and less meat from year to year.

Leading an organisation that I founded 39 years ago to serve the community, and working with staff and board members – loyal and dedicated – is a joy and a privilege I feel grateful for. I enjoy music and all the arts, enjoy life and feel blessed.

I have no aches and pains. I take no painkillers most years, except last year when I took one Panadol tablet after my first COVID jab. I take no medicines, except Vitamin D, magnesium for cramps, and drops for dry eyes.

Some young women in their 50s say that they cannot or can no longer do the plank or push-ups. Every day, I not only do the plank but also the side plank and three sets of six push-ups. If anyone thinks that is a lot for an 81-year-oldie, think of the Japanese woman who climbed Mt Everest when she was 63 and again when she was 73 in 2002.

This is an edited version of the article, which first appeared in full HERE.

About Women’s Health Week

This year marks the 10th anniversary Jean Hailes for Women’s Health annual Women’s Health Week campaign. The week is a campaign of events and online activities designed to boost the health and wellbeing of women and gender-diverse people. For more information visit womenshealthweek.com.au

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