Harry Gaines is author of the new book, Fitness Beyond 50.
He is a retired publishing executive who’s spent most of his adult life working to stay fit and eat healthy. Over the years his athletic activities have included running, swimming, tennis, golf, strength training, and cycling. Today, in his early seventies, he's an active cyclist, logging 5,000 miles per year, and he is also active in strength training and golf. His wife, Debra A. Carrier, is also an active exerciser.
Harry Gaines kindly agreed to answer my questions.
Harry Gaines offers the latest research on fitness beyond 50
FB: Harry, your book, Fitness Beyond 50, seems to hold the keys to the fountain of youth for older folks. Tell us how you put the book together?
Harry: I began by outlining the topics I wanted to cover and then selecting one at a time. I read recent research publications and books, wrote stories from personal experience or from friends’ input and organized the information into a chapter. The goal was always to develop knowledge and inspiration – the “why” of exercise and healthy eating versus “how.”
During the course of writing Fitness Beyond 50 I developed a cadre of over 50 individuals who read and provided comments, many of them M.D.s and Ph.D.s in various branches of science. They made sure the facts were correct, plus contributed many great stories that can provide inspiration to others. I’ve included over 125 real-life stories in the book.
FB: In recent years, there has been a flurry of new research on the connection between exercise and the brain. What contribution does your book offer on this connection?
Harry: The goal of my chapter on exercise and the brain is to make readers aware of the tremendous impact aerobic exercise and even strength training have on our long-term brain function. Exercise is the best medicine for avoiding or deferring Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, plus other forms of dementia.
I benefited from having input from Art Kramer, one of the top researchers in the field. He’s the director of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, one of the most active research centers on this topic in the world.
FB: Aerobics has long been touted as a major benefit for a healthy heart. What new, practical information do you give readers?
Harry: The most frequent reason given for not exercising is lack of time, but recent research, primarily at McMaster University in Canada, has shown that similar or greater results can be achieved by increasing the intensity and exercising for a shorter time period.
A walker, for example, can start out at a three-mile-per-hour pace and periodically increase this pace to four or five miles per hour for 60 seconds, then go back down to three. By doing this for a total of ten minutes during the course of a 30-minute walk, he or she can achieve as much as in a 45-minute walk. Over time https://www.uomosalute.com/inderal-generico.html, it’s likely that a person’s regular walking pace will increase.
The acronym for this is “HIIT,” high intensity interval training. It’s not only a wonderful way to get more in less time, it also gets the blood pumping more and raises our basal metabolic rate for a longer period – the rate at which our heart is working when at rest after exercise.
FB: You also deal with strength training in your book. You point out that adults in midlife begin losing a quarter pound of muscle per year. I don't suspect you recommend eating a "quarter-pounder" to gain strength. What tips do you give to develop a strength-training program?
Harry: If possible, hire a trainer to outline a program to get started. Otherwise, Google “strength training,” and you’ll find many sources that list exercises. Go to mayoclinic.com, where you’ll even find videos of exactly what to do.
Strength training, like any other exercise, should be progressive: Begin easy, avoid damaging muscles, and build up over time. The goal in a few months is to perform an exercise, such as a push-up, until you can’t do any more. This is called “working to fatigue,” a process that breaks down the muscle cells so that they grow back stronger. This helps prevent or reduce the loss of muscle mass as we age.
FB: You haven't neglected healthy eating in your book, another key to living better and longer. How can we make better choices in the food we eat, both at home and in restaurants?
Harry: Keeping records by writing down what we eat, at least for a few weeks to see a pattern, can be eye opening. Some research studies have shown that those who keep records do much better at losing weight than those who don’t.
Awareness of the calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein, sugar, etc. in food we regularly eat can lead to healthier choices. A key to avoiding certain foods at home is simple: Don’t buy it. Eliminating or reducing an unhealthy item, such as ice cream in the freezer, can help build the discipline that will affect other choices, such as red meat selections that are high in fat. Knowledge can lead to better selections in restaurants, as well as at home.
Small changes will, over time, make a big difference. I, for example, totally eliminated French fries over a year ago. This led to eliminating or reducing some other less-desirable foods. The result was a loss of eight pounds and three percentage points in body fat.
FB: Harry, most of us know that we "should" exercise and eat better. Yet many older people are sedentary and obese. It's so difficult changing bad habits. What tips and strategies do you offer for making it fun and pleasurable to keep fit and eat right?
Harry: Changing years of habit isn’t easy, but exercising and eating healthy are essential to leading a long, healthy, active life. If that’s the goal, then change we must.
Writing down goals can be a great start, both short-term and long-term goals. A short-term goal for someone who’s been sedentary might be a commitment to walk one mile five times during the next week. A long-term goal might be to lose 30 pounds in the next 12 months. Making these commitments in writing, plus sharing them with others, makes them real.
Lots of research has shown that those who undertake a new event, such as exercise or healthy eating, with one or more partners are more likely to succeed. The support of others makes a big difference. It can even be someone in a distant city. A friend in London has a brother in Germany. Every Saturday they review via phone or email what goals they accomplished in the past week and what they’re committed to do in the next week.
Set goals; share them with others; find or create a support group; keep records; celebrate success. A year later, or even sooner, you’ll enjoy the “new you.” Success in achieving goals will help in achieving even more.