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: Does your food support your fitness?

This post is a summary of a nutrition session I conducted for the Bell Family YMCA in Hartwell, GA on November 14 & 28, 2017.

YMCA photo 11-16-17

Are you doing all you can to achieve your fitness goals with the foods you choose? Before you can answer that question, it is important to step back and ask yourself a couple of things.

First, what is your fitness goal? Is your goal to build muscle or to improve endurance or cardiovascular fitness? Is your goal to lose weight? Or, is your goal to be healthy? I think it is important to clarify your goal, so you know if your food supports your fitness goals.

• For example, if your goal is to build muscle, are you doing progressive, resistance exercise and working your muscle until it is fatigued? If lifting 3-pound weights is no longer a challenge, you might be improving muscle endurance, but you won’t get stronger. And, if you are doing progressive resistance exercise training, are you getting about 30 grams of protein within 2 hours of your workout to feed your muscles with amino acids, the building blocks of protein?
• Is your goal good health? If so, do you know your blood pressure, blood lipids, blood sugar, or bone density? It helps to know your baseline to see if exercise and your food choices are working to meet your health goals.

Second, is your goal realistic? A 70-year-old can be more fit than a 40-year-old, but the odds of having 3% body fat and six-pack at 70 isn’t very realistic. Or, for women, do you compare yourself to the cover of women’s magazines and think you won’t ever reach that ideal? Well, you’re right, because the women on the covers of those magazines are usually photo-shopped, sculpted, and perfected in a digitally enhanced way that isn’t real. So, as we reach our 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, let’s get real with our goals.

So, if you do set realistic goals, let’s visit a couple of exercisers to see how they have developed realistic goals, but are sabotaging their goals with their food choices.

“You can’t out exercise a bad diet.” Michael works out at moderate intensity 3-4 times a week; he likes to shoot baskets in the gym, lift weights, and walk on the treadmill, but he can’t lose weight and is actually gaining weight. Because he works out, he thinks he can eat whatever he wants. He eats out a lot. Let’s look at his 3 favorite meals and illustrate how long he would have to work out to burn the calories in those meals:
o Zaxby’s Chicken Finger Platter with sweet tea has 1822 calories. To burn those calories Michael would have to:
 Shoot baskets for 5 hours
 Lift weights for 6 ½ hours
 Walk at 4 mph on the treadmill for 4 ½ hours
o 10 Chicken Wings have 1590 calories, so he needs to:
 Shoot baskets for 4 hours
 Lift weights for 5 ½ hours
 Walk on treadmill for 3 ½ hours
o Waffle House All Star Breakfast with Bacon and Hash browns weighs in at 1500 calories, so he needs to:
 Shoot baskets for than 3 ½ hours
 Lift weights for a little more than 5 hours
 Walk on the treadmill for a little more than 3 ½ hours

You get the picture; his food choices are sabotaging his exercise calorie burning. So, what can he do? The easy answer is to make better choices at his favorite quick service restaurants. Nutrition information is available online, so do some homework before you choose. For example, at Zaxby’s, the Kickin chicken sandwich has 760 calories; the grilled chicken sandwich meal has 900 calories, and a chicken salad sandwich has 620 calories; all lower calorie options than his usual meal. And, if he can’t give up sweet tea; try mixing half sweet and half unsweetened to cut calories in half.

“Muscle needs protein.” Sandra, age 61, is trying to build and tone muscle. She recently adopted a plant-based diet, but she will eat some animal protein, like yogurt and cheese. She does weight training three times a week, but is not seeing much progress. For breakfast she has coffee, a glass of almond milk, and a biscuit; lunch is a green salad with lots of veggies and unsweetened iced tea, and for dinner she eats spaghetti with marinara sauce, a green salad, and garlic bread. For a night time snack, she has a bowl of air-popped popcorn.

Sandra is not getting enough protein to feed her muscles; she needs protein at every meal and she can do that with a plant-based diet, but she isn’t making the right choices.

• For breakfast, her protein intake is practically zero. Almond or other nut milks, like cashew milk, do not have protein unless the protein is added to it, usually using pea or rice protein. She could switch to soy milk to get high quality protein and add a slice of Swiss or cheddar cheese to the biscuit.
• The green salad at lunch is good, but again, no protein. If she added chickpeas or garbanzo beans, chopped nuts, and sunflower seeds to the salad and added a serving of cottage cheese or 6-ounces of Greek yogurt, she would boost her protein intake.
• For dinner, in keeping with the plant-based theme, Sandra could learn to make a lentil marinara sauce; lentils and beans (black beans, kidney beans, etc.) are higher in protein than other veggies.
• Popcorn is a whole grain and a good snack, but low in protein. To add some protein before bed, she could sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the popcorn or make a fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt or add a scoop of protein powder to a glass of almond milk.

Next time you bemoan the fact that you aren’t meeting your goals, ask yourself if your food choices support your goals. Food and fitness go hand-in-hand! For a good resource on plant-based eating, see registered dietitian nutritionist, “The Plant Powered Dietitian,” Sharon Palmer’s website.

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well after 50, check out our new book, Food & Fitness After 50, available on 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.

Fit to Eat by Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RD

Happy New Year! For five years I wrote a weekly column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution titled “Fit to Eat.” As newspapers continue to shrink in size, scope, and importance, I will carry my column forward in this blog. As a nutrition professor and registered dietitian, I will write about food, nutrition, and fitness and hope my newspaper readers will find interest in my writing.

Now that it is 2010, here are my suggestions for the top 5 new year’s resolutions that you should not make.

  • Lose weight. This may be one of the most popular new year’s resolutions but it is also the easiest to break. This year aim for health, not weight loss. You might be surprised that by eating healthfully and making small changes to your activity patterns you might drop some pounds without even trying.
  • Join a gym in January. It is depressing to go the gym in January–the place is crowded, you have to wait for a treadmill, and the lines for the weight training machines are nuts. Wait until February when the crowds thin and the new year’s resolutions have faded.
  • Drink 8 glasses of water a day. Stop carrying around that gallon jug of water; there is nothing magical about drinking 8 glasses of water. All beverages count toward hydration–even caffeine-containing drinks, so stop counting water glasses.
  • Eat out less. Nothing wrong with eating out if you make the right choices. Start your meal with a broth-based soup and split an appetizer, salad, or entree to save money and calories.
  • Stop comparing your body to the models on the pages of health and fitness magazines–they are bad for your mental health. Every photo has been altered to show an image that is unattainable. Check out the DVD, “America the Beautiful” to get an insider’s look to our obession with beauty. This year learn to love your self.