Food & Fitness After 50: It is Never to Late to Reclaim Your Health

This guest blog post was written by Dr. Bob Murray, co-author of Food & Fitness After 50.

John bike fallJohn’s odyssey with weight control, fitness, diet, and physical activity is probably not unusual for a 60-year-old American male. A three-sport high-school athlete (football, wrestling, golf), John graduated weighing 200 lb on a 6’3” frame, borderline overweight according to current BMI standards. After graduation, John began working in a machine-tool shop, got married, started a family soon after, and spent the next 25 years of his life immersed in building his own machining business, along with being a husband and father of two. Building his business meant long hours, little exercise, and bad food choices. By the late ‘90s, John weighed 235 lb and was so out of shape he had a difficult time with even low-level physical activity. He realized that changes were needed.

Relying on the same gung-ho, let’s-get-it-done personality that led to success in building his business, John started running. At that time in his early 40’s, he knew his initial progress was going to be slow and found it helpful to frequently remind himself of that. Gradually, the pounds came off. And kept coming off. A couple years into his running routine, John weighed 175 lb, a normal BMI value, although he was very gaunt-looking for his height. Over the next ten years, John continued running, supplemented by weight lifting and a generally active lifestyle, allowing his weight to rise to a more-healthy-looking 190 lb. In his mid-fifties, when his left hip joint began to give him trouble, John switched to biking as a new way to stay fit and trim. Heavy weight lifting gave way to intense sessions of P-90X, a transition John enjoyed. All in all, everything was clicking: regular exercise, much-improved diet, weight under control, feeling good.

Early on a hot July morning in 2016, John participated in a 5-K charity run. Doing so may have saved his life. Struggling throughout the 3.1-mile event, John recalled being surprised that he was so far out of running shape. Within yards of the finish line, John collapsed face first onto the pavement. Nearby paramedics raced to his side and told him they were taking him to the nearest ER. John agreed, but only if they first let him finish the race. John walked the few remaining yards across the finish line and into the waiting ambulance.

The doctor’s diagnosis was a shock. John’s aortic valve (the valve from his left ventricle into the aorta) was worn out, the result of a lifetime of wear on an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. As it turned out, John’s mother and one of his sisters had the same defect. Open-heart surgery was required to replace John’s worn valve with one fashioned from the heart tissue of a cow. The surgery was a major setback to John’s physical and emotional wellbeing, as would be expected with someone who was by all standards vital and healthy.

It took John about one year after surgery to feel normal again. The strange aches and pains that often accompany open-heart surgery gradually subsided and John was able to slowly ramp his cycling and strength sessions back to pre-surgery levels. Life is good once again. John recognized that his devotion to regular physical activity may have both unmasked a life-threatening issue and enabled him to survive it. He knows that continued activity and a good diet are an important part of living a long and healthy life.

John says his advice to others who share similar struggles is to “find activities that you enjoy and slowly make them a regular habit. I’ve found that interval training is a great way for me to dig myself out of the holes that we all encounter when our diets and exercise habits periodically lapse. I enjoy the variety and challenge of interval training and a hard 20-minute workout sure beats a much longer ride or run for saving time. My interval workouts on a stationary bike or elliptical machine are challenging and very tolerable, the best part being that I can sense improvement from one session to the next. Unlike playing golf, I’ve never walked away from a workout in a bad mood.”

Learn more about how to come back after illness or injury in Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon. And, read more about inspiring people in the 50, 60s, 70s, and beyond at my blog, Fit to Eat.

Food & Fitness After 50: The Power of Letting Go

 

Jill Sherer Murray photo
Jill

At age 41, Jill had a wakeup call that it was time to end a 12-year relationship with her boyfriend. It was the start of her journey to “let go for it” that has led her to accomplish amazing things. When it came to a marriage commitment, her boyfriend’s favorite two words were “not yet.” Jill finally realized if not yet, when? So, she let go of everything: Broke up with him, quit her job, moved from the Midwest to the East coast, and met a wonderful man online. They were married a year later.

 

Now in her mid-50s, Jill has come to fully embrace the power of letting go, but it took another blow—the loss of someone she deeply loved for her to realize what we all know is true, that life is precious and can end way too soon.

With that in mind, she decided she wanted to help other people let go of the things that were standing in the way of enjoying life. Starting with herself, she began working on letting go of the self-doubt and nagging burdens about her less-than-perfect body, in particular, that had plagued her since childhood. “We all have a motor running in our brains 24/7 telling us we aren’t good enough or pretty enough or thin enough,” says Jill, adding that letting go is a process. “Women, especially, have a hard time quieting the harsh voices in our heads and living up to society’s idea of what we should look and act like. All of this negative self-talk can take a toll on our self-worth and our outlook on life. It can also increase our stress, which has been well documented to affect our health.”
Instead, she says, at a certain age, letting go is not only an act of kindness, but preventive care. “When we learn to let go, we can enjoy better health as we grow older, and accept ourselves and love ourselves most. It’s very freeing.”

Jill wanted to get her message of letting go to a wider audience so she took on the ambitious, audacious idea of doing a TEDx talk called “The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go”. For those who don’t know, TED, which stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design” is a non-profit devoted to spreading ideas in short 10- to 15-minute talks. Her proposal was accepted on the first try, which is highly unusual, but that is just like Jill. You can watch her talk here.

Jill is also working on a book about letting go and an advice column to help people let go for romantic love, specifically, which you can read on her website.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch her talk; it is inspiring, touching and funny, and it might just make you think about what you are holding on to and what you need let go of to be happier and healthier as you age. In the talk, Jill lists five ways to let go. I won’t give them all way (you will just have to watch it!), but one of my favorite tips is “let go of the need to be perfect.” I had a friend who was a perfectionist, but she was always unhappy. The world isn’t perfect so trying to be a perfectionist is just self-defeating!

While letting go may not seem like an obvious way to improve your health as you age, it can be just as important as eating well and moving well. Each plays an important role in staying physically, mentally, and emotionally well as we age. For more tips and stories on how to do it, check out the book Food & Fitness After 50, by Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray.

And, if you have questions about eating well, moving well, or staying well as you age, leave us a question at our webpage.

Food & Fitness After 50: Be Well by Being Humble and Kind

Perhaps you’ve heard the Tim McGraw hit, “Be Humble and Kind,” and while many of us strive to be both, we often fall short. I know one person who is always humble and kind, and she is so humble, that she will not agree with my assessment, although she is too kind to tell me I am full of it!

At age 71, Tia helps make our community a better place. She is that behind-the-scenes mover and shaker that doesn’t like the spotlight, but she likes to get things done.  Here is a short list of the things she does as a volunteer to make our community be well, and herself be well.

  • Volunteers at the elementary school to mentor children (for 5 years, she did the same at the high school)
  • Organizes a low country boil every year to raise money for our county’s Imagination Library chapter. Dollie Parton started the Imagination Library in 1995 to foster reading in preschool children in her home county in Tennessee. Each enrolled child receives a specially selected book each month. The program was so popular that in 2000 it was expanded to other communities who wanted to partner with the Foundation and provide local support. To date the Foundation has provided over 1 million books to kids in countries around the world. In our little corner, 1,115 children received a book in the month of October. Follow up research shows that the program improves childhood literacy.
  • Serves on the board for the Hart Beat Running Club; an organization that coaches children on how to be physically active through running and competing in local events and prepares those who want to run cross country in middle and high school.
  • Serves on the board and organizes the volunteers for the Clothes Closet, a non-profit group that provides clothes at a discount and then uses the money for a food pantry for elderly adults.
  • As member of our Friends of the Library (our library was the 2016 Library of the Year in the state of Georgia…quite a feat for a small town!), she worked to bring The Piatigorsky Foundation to our community for a yearly classical music concert. The goal of the foundation is to make classical music part of life for communities throughout the U.S. that would not otherwise have the opportunity to hear such amazing performances. Here is Tia with violinist, Qing Li, and pianist, Paolo Andre Gualdi, at the October 10, 2017 concert. Tia at Piatigorsky Foundation concert

On top of all that she spends plenty of time with her husband, Bob, and with her 3 children and 8 grandchildren.

So, it is obvious that Tia stays busy but her physical activity is limited to walking, gardening, and household chores. She has had asthma for 69 years, and while she would love to play tennis or pickleball with her friends, she finds it is hard to do those things “when I can’t breathe!”  She doesn’t complain and she has found alternative ways to be active every day. She eats healthy; lots of fish and chicken and veggies, and doesn’t eat out very often so that when she does eat out, “it is more of a treat than an everyday thing.” She loves to cook and is always trying new recipes and finds an enthusiastic audience for new dishes by her husband.

When asked what challenges she has faced as she has gotten older, she replied, “it is easier, not harder!” What makes it easier? “Sharing life with her husband who shares her love of God, family, food, and exercise!” Losing her father and brother at early ages, makes her live every day as a gift. Her closing words? “Life is just darn good!” The closing verse of Humble and Kind sums up this special friend:

Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind

(written by Lori McKenna)

For more tips on how to be well after 50 check out Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray’s book, Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Top 5 Exercise Tips

This guest blog post was written by Dr. Bob MurrayBob Murray

In Food & Fitness After 50, we describe the importance of regular exercise for health and longevity.  We know that for many people, words such as “exercise”, “training”, and “workouts” are turn-offs, terms they can’t relate to and don’t want to consider as part of their lifestyle.  That’s no problem!  Most important for all of us is to adhere to a simple concept: sit less and move more.  Improving our health is as simple as that one painless step.  By reducing the time we sit, our increased movement throughout the day results in more calories burned and challenges our hearts, muscles, and bones to gradually improve their capacities.  For those who have spent the past decades doing just the opposite—sitting more and moving less—changing that habit is one of the easiest and most effective steps we can take toward better health.

Here are our top 5 tips to easily experience the long-term benefits of moving more:

  • Make sitting-less a priority. During each weekday, set an alarm to sound every hour (or less if you’d like) as a reminder to get up and move around.  If you’re stuck at your desk or in a meeting, moving around may be nothing more than standing for a few minutes.  If you have the opportunity, use those regular breaks from sitting to take a walk, stretch, or do a few exercises.  Television commercials can be another prompt to get up and move, just don’t use those opportunities to visit the refrigerator!
  • Make moving-more easy to accomplish. Family responsibilities and work require most of our time and energy, so it’s no surprise that many people want and need some down time to decompress.  If your day is jam packed and there simply is no time (or energy) to devote to formal exercise, there are still easy ways to move more.  For example, if you drive to your job—or ride a train or bus—take a longer way to walk to work.  Even an extra five minutes of walking before and then again after work can make a big difference over time.  If you have the chance to take a walk at lunch or during a break, that extra movement just adds to the benefits.  Also keep in mind that we don’t have to do all of our physical activity at one time; breaking things into ten-minute periods three times each day is an easy way to achieve a total of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity.  Spreading out our activity over the day may actually be as good as or better than exercising for an hour and being sedentary for the other 23 hours.
  • Make moving-more enjoyable. Common sense tells us that we’re more likely to continue to do the activities we most enjoy.  For that reason alone, moving-more should consist of whatever physical activities you most enjoy.  This simple lesson is especially important for those who have not exercised for decades, but have decided it’s time to increase daily physical activity.  Remember that housework, gardening, and mowing the lawn all count as moving-more.  We may not always enjoy those activities, but they all contribute to the goal of moving more.
  • Make moving-more fit your lifestyle. It can be frustrating to get excited about changing our fitness habits only to soon realize that we can not sustain the commitment of time or energy.  If your weekday schedule is crammed with family and work responsibilities, trying to find time to exercise can add stress.  Do your best to move more each day and use the weekends to get in the exercise you couldn’t fit into your chaotic week.
  • Make moving-more a regular habit. If you are one of the millions of Americans who are overweight and out of shape, your lifestyle will have to change if you hope to become slimmer and fitter.  Some people are successful at making large and abrupt changes in their lifestyles, but most of us find success in initially making small changes and gradually building on those over time.  If you haven’t exercised in decades, it makes more sense to develop new move-more habits by taking a daily 5-minute walk in one direction and then returning home than it does to sign up for a 12-week body-pump class.  Start small, develop a new habit that’s easy to maintain, and then gradually add more time and intensity.

Food & Fitness After 50 contains common-sense, science-based tips and resources that can help us eat well, move well, and be well.  Remember, the journey to better physical and mental health can begin with something a simple as a walk around the neighborhood. Food & Fitness After 50 is published by Eatright Press, a division of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is available at Amazon.