Peggy Buchanan: 1950-2021

‘A smile is rest to the weary,
daylight to the discouraged,
sunshine to the sad,
and an antidote for trouble.’
—spoken by Dale Carnegie,
lived by Peggy Buchanan

Peggy Buchanan — an award-winning leader in the fitness industry, best-selling author of fitness and nutrition books, and international speaker — lived for three years with a severe and progressive neuromuscular degenerative disorder. In true Peggy style, she faced her declining physical condition with a powerful, sassy attitude. Just a few weeks before her death on December 1, Peggy summed up her incredible zest for life: “I will never stop dancing, and I will always be a cheerleader for living a healthy lifestyle of activity, creativity, and gratitude.” She died at home at the age of 71.

Peggy believed firmly that optimum health and well-being is achieved by engaging the body in movement while appreciating the beauty that surrounds us. Forever looking for the positive, Peggy found that being physically limited only affirmed the importance of her career path and lifestyle.

Peggy Buchanan’s “Tongue in Beak” series was a hit at the Sunday art shows. | Courtesy Paula Jensen

Peggy was fortunate to be welcomed into this world on February 27, 1950, by her fun-loving, hardworking parents, who taught her and her siblings the importance of common courtesy, respect, and knowing right from wrong. Family life always included family pets, and Peggy always had a faithful companion in her many four-legged family members.

Peggy achieved a master’s degree in Physical Education and Exercise Physiology. Her special talent in leading others to a healthy lifestyle took shape when she became a high school physical education teacher and enjoyed teaching and coaching at all three local Santa Barbara high schools.

Peggy married Tom Buchanan, a man who shared her values, active lifestyle, love of nature, and zest for enjoying life to the fullest. Peggy would say her love of an active lifestyle was just part of her DNA.

She was given the chance to follow her dance passion as a Jazzercise instructor when she launched the Santa Barbara Jazzercise program. Peggy was instrumental in the larger organization and trained other instructors worldwide. After dancing in all 50 states in the U.S., six Canadian provinces, and 10 foreign countries, Peggy added international motivational speaking to her résumé, presenting and coaching on the benefits of whole-person wellness. Peggy also enjoyed guest hosting the KEYT-3 morning show for years with Gene Forssell.

As an author and innovator of fitness, Peggy received numerous awards, including the IDEA International Fitness Instructor of the Year in 1997, Best Senior Fitness Program from the Area Agency on Aging in 1999, and International IDEA Program director of the year in 2002.

Her final “occupational performance” occurred at Vista del Monte Retirement Community, where she inspired older adults to keep moving and maintain their independence for as long as possible. At Vista del Monte, Peggy helped to design and create programming for the state-of-the-art Fitness and Aquatic Center, bringing fitness and aquatics to the entire Santa Barbara community.

The only thing Peggy ever failed at was retirement. She poured wine at the Santa Barbara Winery and led a “Fit & Sip” pole-walking class that blended wine and wellness. She entertained the local and visiting throngs with her “Tongue in Beak” series of chick art and beautiful watercolor and oil paintings of Santa Barbara landmarks. She sold her paintings at the Cabrillo Boulevard Arts & Crafts Show each Sunday, where she served as an Advisory Board member. She taught “Flashback Friday” Jazzercise classes at the Paige Youth Center in Goleta, traveled internationally with her husband, and enjoyed daily early-morning walks at Hendry’s Beach with her “four-legged treadmill,” their Australian Shepherd, Kootenay.

Peggy’s talent and creativity knew no bounds. Always a lover of alliteration, she posted a video on YouTube six months before her death, titled “Lessons Learned at the Beach,” narrated through her computer-synthesized “virtual voice.” May its script be a lesson to us all:

When facing ADVERSITY…
First, I ACKNOWLEDGE what I’m up against.
After realizing it isn’t going away, I ANALYZE it and do my homework.
Next, I do my best to ACCEPT it.
Then I figure out ways to ADAPT to the situation.
And finally, I am ready to ADVANCE and not look back.

Peggy is survived by her husband, Tom; sweet Aussie, Kootenay; mother, Eleanor; sister, Paula (Scott); brother, Peter; and nephew, Darrin. While they are too numerous to list, her loved ones would like to thank all who brought love, laughter, and support to Peggy as she faced her declining physical condition with courage, wisdom, audacity, and pizzazz. Her spirit never faltered, and her inspiring example remains with us forever.

Memories of Peggy may be shared at


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