Amy Grant: What My Mom's Arthritis Taught Me

The singer-songwriter shares family lessons in resilience, starting with her mom’s strategy for living well with osteoarthritis: Keep moving—and get creative in the kitchen!     

Katie Alberts
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With her trim shape and youthful good looks, you might think Amy Grant spends her time between concerts doing rigorous workouts with a personal trainer. The truth? “I don’t have time for the gym, so I walk and bike and just enjoy being active,” says the 52-year-old Grammy winner. “And when we have time as a family, we don’t go to the mall. We’re walking or kayaking or doing something fun outside,” Amy says, referring to her husband, country star Vince Gill, and their “blended” family of five children (four are from previous marriages, plus Amy and Vince have a 12-year-old daughter).

It’s just another healthy habit learned from her mom, Gloria. “My mom had osteoarthritis in her hands and knees, but she always stayed active,” says Amy, whose mother died two years ago at age 80. Even several joint surgeries couldn’t deter Gloria—and she had a staggering number: three knee replacements (two on her left knee), a hip replacement, shoulder surgeries to fix her rotator cuff, then a shoulder replacement. Yet her mom still managed to keep fit, says Amy, who credits her mom with teaching Amy and her three sisters how to live a happy and healthy life. In fact, it was one of the last conversations with her mother that inspired Amy’s new album, How Mercy Looks From Here, the Gospel star’s first collection of new songs in 10 years.

“Mom was ahead of the curve”
Some of Amy’s favorite memories include gathering around the dinner table to share stories and homemade family meals. It’s a tradition her mom insisted on, and one that Amy continues with her own family. “Dinner was an honored mealtime,” says the Nashville native. “We never had fast food, and my mom always made a point of serving meat, vegetables and a salad at every meal.”

The surprising part? Many of her family’s dinnertime staples also happened to be good for the joints, including olive oil-based dressings and yummy dishes made with nutrient-dense greens like kale, spinach and collards.

“This was the 1960s, so my mom was ahead of the curve when it came to healthy eating,” notes Amy. “She loved to cook and taught me and my sisters how to make some of our favorite family meals. When I feel overwhelmed with work, I like to go into the kitchen and start cooking. It’s a very centering process.”

“Her legacy lives on”
Another childhood example Amy still follows: Make exercise fit your lifestyle. “My mom was never one to go to a gym, so she did the Jane Fonda workouts with weights on her bedroom floor,” says Amy. Mom didn’t let Amy and her three sisters sit around, either, often telling them to go outside and play. “It’s the same thing I say to my kids now,” she says.

Amy even has a portable—and fun!—fitness routine when she’s touring. “I bring a bicycle on the bus, and several people I tour with, including Vince, also bring bikes along,” says the Gospel pop singer. “We perform at night and spend the days exploring bike trails across the country.”

“My mom is my role model,” adds Amy. “She was always active, always learning—and always made the best of life.”  

January 2013