Food & Fitness After 50: The Power of Moving Well to Be Well

 

Harry final marathon with son in 2013
Harry and son, running the New Orleans Marathon 

Now at age 75, Harry doesn’t run marathons anymore, but after completing 11 marathons, he is still running 5-6 miles four days a week with a longer run thrown in to keep it interesting. He also walks and occasionally cycles. He works fitness into everyday life, like walking the stairs, standing on one leg in checkout lines, and balancing on the curb while walking the dog.

 

Harry, an Associate Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology and Special Education, started running in his late 30s. “In 1976, I watched the Peachtree Road Race, a 10K run on the 4th of July and was mesmerized by the swishing sounds of the hundreds of runners going past me and I thought I would like to do that next year.” So, with a friend, they began running near his home in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Slowly, at first, and then progressing to looping around the mountain three times for a total of 15 miles. He ran the Peachtree in 1977 and was a regular participant for many years. Before too long, he was running the annual event with his son. Harry describes running as “cheaper than Prozac!” For him, running was the best stress reliever and it soon became a “positive addiction.” At his peak of running, he was covering 65 miles a week. But, he learned that pounding the pavement takes its toll; he was losing too much weight and had a harder time recovering as he aged. “I wish I had cross trained and taken a more balanced approach to exercise and fitness.”

He discovered a Furman University professor’s book, Run Less, Run Faster, and realized he didn’t have to put in so many miles to be a successful, competitive recreational runner. “The approach outlined by the authors helped me achieve some balance. I enjoy being active, but as I’ve gotten older I think I am smarter about exercise.” Harry started practicing yoga about 5 years ago to help stretch out tight hamstrings. Runners often have tight muscles because they like to run, but stretching, not so much. (As a former runner, I can relate. I just wanted to go out for a run and not bother with the warm-up and cool-down phase!)Harry peachtree city classic 2015

When asked to identify three things that have helped him age well, Harry immediately said “keep moving,” and that is not surprising given his 4 plus decades of running. He is lean and fit, and you wouldn’t guess he is 75 years old. Second, he said he is careful about what he eats. He likes the approach taken in the Blue Zones where exploration of long-lived populations reveals how people eat well, move well, and be well around the world. And, lastly, he has enjoyed learning about the scholarship of aging and wellness. “As a university professor I was entrenched in my own discipline and did not know much about aging and wellness research and the robust body of literature that exists.” He also enjoys reading popular, informative books such as Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate  History. “My grandfather and father died of prostate cancer and I have a much better understanding of how cancer affects my family after reading these books.”

Harry’s advice for those who are sedentary is to start with something within reach, “in hindsight, walking might have been a better choice!” Start slow and set goals to continue to progress. And, remember, “we are all a work in progress.”

Food & Fitness After 50: The Power of Prevention

I was first introduced to Connie when I heard her sing the national anthem in front of 10,000 dietitians at the opening session of the annual convention of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her powerful voice and engaging on-stage presence made me want to get know my fellow dietitian. Fast forward many years later, and many more times performing the nation’s anthem (10 times more, to be exact) and I’ve come to admire her commitment to helping her patients get well and stay well, and her personal commitment to prevent a chronic disease that runs in her family.

Connie  is a registered dietitian who is also a certified diabetes educator . She is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes, and her new book, Diabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World, will be available soon (information is available on her website.)

Connie Brown RiggsConnie’s personal commitment to eating well, moving well, and being well stems from her desire to prevent diabetes. “Diabetes affects family members on both sides of my family and that inspired me to not only become an expert in diabetes, but to practice what I teach by leading by example.” Connie says she had always done a little bit of exercise, but as she approached her mid-60s she ramped up her activity by hiring a personal trainer for twice weekly strength workouts and does cardio work three times a week. She says, “I am running away from diabetes!” She loves challenging her mind and body in her strength and conditioning workouts. Her latest challenge was to set a goal to complete 1,000 feet of “Jacob’s Ladder.” This Jacob’s Ladder is not the biblical ladder that connects earth to heaven, but rather a tough workout combining aerobics on a stair stepper with power, balance, and agility. “When I set the challenge, I could barely do 100 feet, but I made 1,000 feet with hard work and persistence.” Connie finds it motivating to be able to perform feats “that some younger people cannot do in the gym!” Check out Connie lifting 155 pounds at age 66!

Connie says that it is hard to keep up her fitness routine when she travels, but that traveling isn’t an excuse to abandon working out. While many hotels have great fitness centers, it isn’t always easy to get to the gym at 5 AM when morning meetings start at 6 or 7 AM. Connie found a solution; she packs a travel hula hoop. She says, “I have been known to rearrange hotel furniture to find a spacing for hooping.” She also uses apps on her phone to download workouts that she can do on the road. But, she also says the goal with exercise is “persistence, not perfection.” She tells people not to beat themselves if they miss a workout, but instead take the very next opportunity to move it.

Thanks for inspiring us with your story, Connie, and making me want to hit the gym…now!

Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray  are the authors of Food & Fitness After 50. It is available on Amazon.Chris and Bob at video shoot 9.21.17

 

It is also available from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Food & Fitness After 50: Nurturing Others…and, Yourself

Do you have a special friend who is a nurturer and a positive presence in your life? If not, I hope you find someone like my friend, Lisa, who elevates people by her outlook on life and being a champion and cheerleader for her friends and family.

In her early 60s, Lisa spent over 20 years in corporate America and now takes time to take care of her 89-year old mother, teach classes at a local college, and focus on nurturing her spirit by getting back into art and photography. Growing up the middle of three children, her mother tagged her as the “artistic” one. Lisa got her first Brownie camera as a child and took it everywhere, capturing people and places she loved. Art took a back seat to her career, but in 1991 when she moved to Chicago, she enrolled in a watercolor class at the Art Institute, where she met her husband, who was into oil painting. (At their wedding, the comparison to “oil and water” was raised!)
Lisa said she asked herself, “if art is my favorite thing to do, yet I don’t do it, how can I say it is my favorite thing?”

Lisa’s artistry and creativity are at their best at gatherings of friends. Many years ago, we met at a friend’s house in Pennsylvania. Hanging on her wall was a painting of a woman who she named “Shirley.” Lisa got the idea to have the five of us draw our version of “Shirley;” we were all pleasantly delighted when she compiled our drawings and framed the print for us. To this day, we call ourselves “The Shirleys,” thanks to Lisa!

The Shirleys

Lisa’s tips for healthy aging include sage advice for all of us. First, she says find your passion and act on it. Years ago, she heard Deepak Chopra  speak and one of the things he said has stayed with her. “Every day ask yourself three questions: Who am I? What do I want? How can I make a difference? The answers don’t have to come right away, but they will come to you.” For Lisa, she isn’t sure what the answers are, but she knows she wants the answers to be the same. Who she is will be someone who makes a difference.

She adds that a physically active life is also important for healthy aging. She enjoys running, walking, and cycling. But, she says, “don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day of exercise or don’t reach your goals.” She practices what she calls, “the power of now,” or living in the moment and being present for all of life’s experiences.

Lisa has always eaten well, but she admits she used to exercise so she could eat anything, but now she is more thoughtful about her food choices. Preferring local to support local farmers and protect the community, she shops at Farmer’s markets and grows veggies at home.

Lastly, Lisa doesn’t keep a “to do” list. Instead, she starts each day by thinking, “I’m going to feel great today if I do……” She also celebrates the little things in life and encourages us all to enjoy good news when it comes our way, instead of moving on to the next thing.
Lisa celebrates and elevates her family, her friends, and very importantly, herself.

Food & Fitness After 50: A Healthy Mindset Can Provide Big Rewards

Bonne, now in her mid-70s, is a California gal at heart, even though she now lives in the southeastern U.S. Born and raised in California, Bonne embraced the west coast fitness movement in the 1960s and 1970s to keep her body and her health in the best possible shape. Californians were ahead of the curve on the fitness trends; she was fit even before Jane Fonda’s call to action with her workout video in the early 1980s. (We all remember Jane’s workout videos!) “Living in southern California was synonymous with looking good, and eating and exercise were a very important part of my life.” Bonne worked full-time as a market research consultant and raised a family, but always found time to be active and eat well. She eats a plant-centered diet, but eats small portions of meat. She enjoys a variety of different cultural cuisines: Indian, Mexican, Turkish, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Italian are all favorites. She cites the diversity of bold flavors as a big reason to break out of the typical American diet rut. She is careful to reduce sugar intake and eats a variety of foods to reduce inflammation (Foods that fight inflammation). Bonne makes her own special beverage of ginger water. (Bonne’s recipe: Cut fresh ginger and simmer in water with stevia leaves, strain, and add to sparkling water for refreshing drink because “water is a great beverage, but it gets boring.”)

As she has aged, she realized that she had to change her activities from high impact sports, like skiing, tennis and running, to low impact workouts. Now she plays golf (quite well; being named the “most improved 9-hole golfer” at her golf club), is an avid gardener and practices yoga and tai chi. Over 500 clinical research trials and 100 systematic reviews have been published on the health benefits of tai chi. For aging adults, the benefits include improving balance, reducing falls, strengthening the lower body, reducing osteoarthritis pain, and improving cognitive function (Health benefits of Tai Chi.)

Bonne yoga
Bonne practicing yoga (photo courtesy of Al Olsen)

 

Bonne says her mindset about activity never changed, she occasionally “strayed” but in the back of her mind she knew she had to “eat properly and move.” She takes a holistic approach to her health and encourages her friends to do the same with a gentle nudge. Bonne maintains the same weight as her high school days by watching her portion sizes, being active, and having a positive mindset. She recommends that all women know their bone density, blood pressure, blood sugar, and healthy weight range. She also finds time to meditate every day to clear her mind and reduce stress. She is her own health advocate and encourages everyone do the same.

Bonne suggest that adults “visualize where you want to be and set goals to be healthy enough to do them.” Her goal? Traveling and being around to watch her 2 great grandchildren grow.

To learn more about Food & Fitness After 50, visit the Website and you can pre-order Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray’s book at Amazon pre-order.

Food & Fitness After 50: How to Age Well While Living with a Chronic Disease

Meet Mike, a 64-year old artist who weighs the same as he did when he was in high school. How many of us can say that? Many of us over 50 live with chronic diseases, but Mike has been dealing with a serious disease since he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 34 years ago, at the age of 30. Most of you have heard of diabetes, but did you know that only 5% of the people with diabetes have Type 1? In this form of diabetes, no insulin is produced so Mike must give himself multiple daily insulin shots to survive. Insulin acts like a key to allow glucose (sugar) to enter cells to produce energy. Without insulin, his blood sugar can reach dangerously

food 72
Illustration by Mike

high levels, while his cells starve because they can’t use glucose. (Fun fact: Prior to 1982, insulin was produced from the pancreas of cows or pigs; it wasn’t a very efficient process. To get 8-ounces of insulin, 2 tons of pig pancreas had to be processed. In 1982, genetic engineering (or GMO, if you’ve heard of that term) produced the first purified insulin from bacteria for human use. The technique is called recombinant DNA and the genetically engineered insulin has greatly reduced allergic reactions from cow or pig insulin. It is a modern medical miracle for those with diabetes.) For those who want to know more about all types of diabetes, the American Diabetes Association is a great resource (American Diabetes Association).

The pillars of management for Type 1 diabetes are insulin, diet, and activity. So, how does Mike eat and stay active to manage diabetes?

“I eat as good as I can,” he says, but doesn’t follow the old school notion of a diabetes diet. He counts carbs to help him adjust his insulin dose to match food intake. He eats peanut butter toast most mornings, but is trying to add more protein to his breakfast. He keeps his snacks simple and healthy; a small apple, pear, or handful of raisins and nuts. He has learned that portion size is key to managing his blood sugar levels.  As for meals, he “can make a whole meal out of a steamed bunch of broccoli.” He enjoys a couple of beers most days, with his favorite food, peanuts. He doesn’t eat a lot of meat, but gets protein from nuts, beans, rice, and fish, especially sardines (a good source of omega-3-fats). “I want to eat as healthy as I can to manage my blood sugar and avoid the complications of diabetes. I want to be around for a long time so I can hang out with my 4-year old grandson and watch him grow.”

Mike doesn’t belong to a gym or “exercise” in the way many of us do; he gets his exercise by walking and biking because he doesn’t own a car. “Biking to the grocery store is great exercise because I carry the groceries home in my backpack; I’m not tempted to buy things I don’t really need.” He also sees house and yard work as exercise. “Scrubbing floors and using an old-fashioned push mower to cut the grass” is seen, not as a chore, but as exercise.

Mike’s goal is simple: “feel good, not gross.” I’d say he is meeting his goal!

Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray’s new book, Food & Fitness After 50, is available for pre-order through Amazon (preorder link).

Why this dietitian promotes healthful eating and exercise for those over 50

When talking about food and fitness for those over 50, it is the best of times, and sometimes the worst of times. Everyone want to know the ”best” exercise or food to eat to prevent aging. A quick Google search will provide you with many answers, unfortunately most of them are less than science-based and are usually trying to separate you from your money. Let’s be clear: there is no one superfood or exercise that will prevent aging.

That is why, I am excited to launch Food & Fitness After 50, with co-author, exercise book-front-pagephysiologist, Bob Murray. The book will be published later this year. While there might not be a “best” exercise or food, that doesn’t mean that food and fitness are unimportant as we age. You can be healthier at 65 than you were at 45 by eating well and starting (or increasing) your physical activity. This is important because so many of us are living longer. Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, began turning 65 in 2011 and by 2029 when all boomers will be 65, more than 20% of the population will be over 65. Why is 65 an important number? Because people reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of 19.3 years (20.5 years for women and 18 years for men). How do you want to spend those 20 years? Do you want to travel, enjoy your favorite physical activities, and be a vibrant person in the lives of your grandchildren and great grandchildren? I am sure that we all want that, so being active and eating healthfully are steps you can take right now to increase your odds of being healthy into your later years.

Just this week, The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published an article on nutrition controversies in preventing heart and blood vessel disease. The article can be found here  http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/69/9/1172?_ga=1.183783078.1620905078.1488293025 and here is an easy to guide to see their recommendations.

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While their article focused on heart disease, our book covers many healthful eating patterns to keep your heart, bones, joints, blood sugar, blood pressure, and brain healthy. Remember there isn’t one “best” eating plan. So, we feature four plans that we think most older adults will find fit their lifestyle and their enjoyment of foods:

  • The DASH eating plan (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
  • The Flexitarian plan
  • The Mediterranean Diet
  • The MIND diet (MIND stands for Mediterranean- ASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay)

We also dive into exercise for endurance, strength, agility, balance, and functional fitness. Keeping our heart and lungs strong, halting muscle loss, and keeping agile all contributes to functional fitness….the ability to do the things you did when you were younger without a second thought. I want to be able to lift my suitcase in the overhead bin when I travel and pick up a 50-pound bag of dog food, all examples of functional fitness. Age-related muscle loss usually starts at about age 40. We can lose 10-15% of muscle mass and muscle strength every decade if we don’t engage in progressive, resistance exercise.

We hope that our book can help those over 50 learn to separate usual aging from the disuse of a sedentary lifestyle and sort out the fact from fiction about foods. Please visit our webpage to learn more about the book and leave us a question that you might see featured in an upcoming blog post. Web page for Food & Fitness After 50

 

 

 

 

National Almond Day

Happy National Almond Day! Active people are always asking me about healthy snacking options and with February 16 as National Almond Day it is the perfect time to talk about the benefits of one of my favorite foods. I am proud to be teaming up with the Almond Board of California to host a giveaway celebrating the healthfulness of almonds to one of my readers.

Just post a comment on the ways you enjoy almonds and a winner will be selected to receive an almond cookbook and almonds in several forms for snacking or making heart healthy almond appetizers, entrees, salads and desserts.

I’ve had the good fortune to visit almond orchards during the harvest and you can see from my photo that not only do almonds look heart healthy, they are! The American Heart Association recommends eating nuts, legumes and seeds at least four times a week as part of a heart healthy diet. Almonds pack a nutrition punch with nutrients that are good for your heart. One serving (1 ounce or about 23 whole almonds) contains 35% of the antioxidant vitamin E and that is more than any other tree nut. Almonds are also a rich source of fiber and monounsaturated fats; all recommended for reducing your risk of heart disease.

For active people, almonds have other great benefits. One serving contains 6 grams of protein and 75 milligrams of calcium to support muscle and bone health. Many of you are exercising to lose or maintain your weight but don’t fear the calories in almonds. Research from the USDA shows that almonds contain about 20% fewer calories than what is stated on the label. So, your 100-calorie snack pack of almonds only provides 80 calories. When we eat nuts, especially hard nuts like almonds, the cell walls are not completely broken down and the fat contained inside the cells does not get absorbed so you get fewer calories but will all the great taste and nutrition.

If you are looking for satisfying snack that is:

  • a good source of protein
  • rich in vitamin E
  • high in fiver
  • calcium-rich
  • gluten-free
  • tasty
  • crunchy
  • and, delicious, almonds check all the boxes.

For more information and great recipes visit the Almond Board of California at www.almondboard.com. Tell me your favorite way to snack on almonds before February 16 to be eligible for a cool giveaway. (Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post but the Almond Board sent me the almond bundle to enjoy and that you can also enjoy!)