Food & Fitness After 50: The Value of Life-Long Learning

Elizabeth CarlsonWe often hear about the value of life-long learning, but how many of us are stuck in our daily grinds and tell ourselves that someday we’ll get around to reading that book or taking an online class to improve a skill that has eluded us? Well, not Elizabeth, who at age 89, is still learning. Recently, she enrolled in financial planning courses so she could manage her own investments (which she does quite well from her laptop!) Elizabeth had to learn to do for herself at an early age. Her husband died when she was just 43 years old so she set her priorities: get a job, raise her three children (who were in high school at the time), and make sure she had enough money to help her kids get to college. From a research librarian to working in consumer affairs for a regional grocery store chain, she did whatever she needed to do to support her family.

When asked about her path to healthy aging, Elizabeth recounted how her parents set a great example on healthy eating, which she has passed on to her children. “My father had a garden and we always had fresh vegetables on the dinner table. I learned to can what we grew so there would always be vegetables in the house, even in the harsh New England winters.” Her parents also raised chickens and had fresh eggs, and they encouraged her and her three siblings to choose “colorful” foods, long before the dietary mantra to do so came to be popular. She became a canning leader for the local high school to teach boys and girls how to preserve food. She thinks that Americans have “come full circle,” enjoying gardening and shopping at Farmer’s Markets and trying to choose healthier foods.

As for exercise, she was always active. “I grew up before the Internet and screen time was a thing; we were just outside all of the time. My dad played baseball so there was always a game going on in the field near our house.” Today, she belongs to the local YMCA, but hasn’t exercised as much as she would like as she recuperates from a broken wrist, but she knows she will get back to it soon. “I love group exercise for the social aspects; my fellow exercisers are my friends, even if I never see them outside of the gym.” She loved riding a bicycle, but she gave that up 3 years ago (at the age of 86), because she didn’t feel “safe” on the bike any longer.

Elizabeth worries for many older adults who live on a fixed income and can’t afford healthy foods. Indeed, food insecurity, the lack of money to buy food, is estimated to affect 5 million older adults in the U.S. Elizabeth admits she is a “worrier,” but she is learning to relax and urges everyone to “enjoy their life.”

I am sure that Elizabeth will celebrate her 90th birthday in February, surrounded by her children and 5 grandchildren and will be setting her next learning goal, while enjoying her life. Thank you for sharing your journey, and keep on inspiring us to be life-long learners.

 

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: 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.

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.

April Fool’s Day Fun with Food

The Evidence Analysis Library of the American Dietetic Association has a section on pediatric overweight and recently I was give the opportunity to translate the science into section for the consumer side of the ADA website (http://www.eatright.org/)

One thing that struck me was the behavioral science of raising a child to have a healthy weight and a positive body image. Family function can have many positive effects on a child’s eating behaviors and weight. Some of the patterns most related to healthy body weight include family closeness, support, and mind-stimulating activities.

My niece, Angela, has all that (and more!) covered in raising her 2 daughters. This April 1 she surprised her oldest daughter with some fun (definitely mind-stimulating!) creative lunch choices. The pictures show Cheez-Its replaced with marshmallows (re-sealed with double sided tape to make it authentic), “Sushi” made with rice krispies, fruit rolls, jelly beans, and black sprinkles, “grilled cheese” from toasted pound cake and yellow icing, and of course, an apple complete with a gummy worm. How much fun is that? What a wonderful way to have fun with a child…OK, the actual substitutions were not as healthy as the original foods, but can you image how the April Fool’s surprise from mom’s April Foods delighted her elementary school-age daughter??!!