In a town focused on the fountain of youth, personal trainer Malin Svensson has made a career out of catering to the 50-plus set. With clients who include Maria Shriver, Barbara Handler (daughter of Barbie doll creator Ruth Handler), Jamie Lee Curtis and even ’80s fitness icon Jane Fonda, the Marina del Rey-based Nordic Body founder has a refreshing fitness philosophy and approach to life.
“Age is just a chronological number. It doesn’t say who you are, how young you are at heart and how good of shape you are in,” says Svensson. “I’m empowering the 50-plus crowd to live a fun, healthy and fulfilling life. We want to not only be able to look good, but we want to continue with all the activities that we used to do in our 40s and 50s as we’re aging.” Says Shriver of her trainer: “Malin gets you focused and keeps you moving forward. As we all age, every single person has to focus on balance, movement and strength.”
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Svensson focuses on building strength while preventing potential injuries and reducing aches and pains. “I train all my clients as athletes,” says the trainer, who was a nationally ranked runner in Sweden before moving to Los Angeles in 1989 with a master’s degree in physical education. “The Nordic Body system is nine exercises of strength training that address all of the muscles in the body in a functional way.”
Fonda has been working with Svensson for more than 10 years. “I’m 86 and have a lot of loose parts. I have to be careful. But with Malin, I feel 100 percent safe and cared for,” the actress tells THR, adding, “Malin is one of the kindest, most caring, forgiving and careful trainers I’ve ever had.”
The two met when Svensson was training a client at an L.A. gym. After observing her from afar, Fonda approached Svensson and asked if she had availability. Svensson remembers the moment well. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is as if the Dalai Lama would hire a spiritual teacher,’ ” she recalls. “I was starstruck for three seconds, but anyone who has met Jane knows that she takes you straight down to mother earth and grounds you.”
In addition to offering personal training at her clients’ homes, Svensson launched an online program (nordicbody.com) during the pandemic — and she has Lily Tomlin to thank. “In March 2020, Lily wasn’t comfortable working out in person,” Svensson recalls. “She said, ‘Can we start working out online?’ I’m open-minded. I believe you can do anything at any age, but I thought, ‘My demographic is not going to want to be online.’ But here she is in her 80s saying it. I was like, ‘If Lily wants to do it, probably a lot of other people want to.’ ”
Handler is one of her longest clients. “Malin has kept me in such great shape for 22 years,” she shares. “I attribute my recovery from a fractured ankle to her improving my strength, balance and flexibility.”
Many new devotees come from referrals from other clients. Suzanne Yankovic, a film marketing executive and wife of Weird Al, introduced her best friend, Curtis, to Svensson last summer. “Although new to the Malin regime, I’m very happy I met her and got her program ingrained before I head off to my various work jobs,” says Curtis. “She is a beautiful advocate for embracing strength and flexibility and mental agility, regardless of our age.” Adds Yankovic, “Beyond her obvious expertise, guidance and passion, Malin is fun, prompt, direct, encouraging, and innovative. She gets it.”
Svensson also offers an online certification program for fitness pros interested in becoming Nordic Body trainers. Later this year, she’s launching a program that luxury gyms and fitness centers can license throughout the country. And this May, she’s releasing a 30-minute monthly podcast, Age & Attitude. Naturally, it’ll feature some of her notable clients as well as inspirational stories. “I just want to help as many people as possible,” Svensson says. “This is my passion — to get us 50-plus motivated.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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