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Winchester author promotes fitness in area schools


Ed and Mary Mayhew jog along this section of Strasburg's Town Park. The couple have written three books about being fit after the age of 50. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Josette Keelor --jkeelor@nvdaily.com

Local author Ed Mayhew has made a career of helping promote physical fitness among children. Now retired from 40 years as a physical education teacher with Winchester Public Schools, Mayhew, 67, has been promoting his books -- three about fitness for older adults and his latest for children, called "Smarter Stronger Children: The Mega Brain Power Boosters/Muscle-Makers Program for Excellence Teacher & Parent Guide."

His other books have highlighted how adults can become and stay fit at any age, illustrating success stories based on cited research and interviews Mayhew conducted.

In adulthood exercise can seem like a time-consuming chore, but Mayhew assures that only an hour a week can help a normal adult lose 31 percent of body fat in eight weeks. The key is using intervals of high-intensity exercise, which he read about in a 2011 study from King's Daughters Medical Center in Mississippi.

The biggest factor contributing to the current obesity epidemic is lack of fitness, Mayhew said, but the number one reason adults use for not working out is lack of time.

When it takes only an hour a week, he said, "There's really no excuse not to exercise."

The program he teaches is High Intensity Interval Training, incorporating eight cycles each with 90-seconds of easy exercise and 30 seconds of maximum effort exercise. Each workout session is 20 minutes, and he recommends doing three a week.

The book for children doesn't focus much attention on his readers' eating habits. He's noticed that among teens especially, those who really need to lose weight already consumer fewer calories than many who don't.

"That's because they don't like being overweight," Mayhew said. "It doesn't help them because they're not getting movement they need. The key is the physical movement."

"So this is something that can be used across the board for all ages," Mayhew said.

"The idea is to motivate people," he said.

When it comes to children, he said, making exercise fun and conveniently placed within school lessons benefits them on many different levels.

Mayhew developed his program for children after reading about another study he mentioned, from the Manitoba Institute of Child Health in Canada, which found that vigorous physical activity among children consistently was associated with smaller waist measurements, lower blood pressure and increased cardio-respiratory fitness.

"So many youngsters are just moving their thumbs," he said, but schools don't have the time to promote fitness, he said. "They have so much to teach."

Since writing "Smarter Stronger Children" and producing its accompanying DVD, "The Mega Brain Power Boosters & Muscle-Makers Program for Excellence," Mayhew has been visiting area schools to show educators how to implement fitness into their teaching routines without losing class time.

By combining exercise with lessons, -- "What I call brain sprints," Mayhew said.
-- his goal is to connect the two brain hemispheres, which some children have trouble connecting on their own. Mayhew said an action as simple as a child touching a right hand to the left knee can be difficult. Brain sprints help them learn, along with rhythm and music.

"Some of the actions that I have them do forces the connection," Mayhew said, but it's fun because, "You have a lot going on other than just the movements."

Exercise in the classroom also helps children learn better, Mayhew said, because "After exercise their brain is optimized for learning." He pointed out that in Finland, a country he said took first place in a worldwide math and science testing study, school children take 15-minute breaks throughout the school day to combine exercise with lessons.

Brain sprints, "They are so powerful," said Mayhew's wife Mary, who contributed to Mayhew's book, "Fitter after 50: Forever Changing Our Beliefs About Aging."

"I mean it's so simple and so powerful," she said.

Last year Mayhew administered workshops at elementary schools in Winchester, as well as Daniel Morgan Middle School and Sacred Heart Academy, and he has an upcoming workshop at the Independent School of Winchester on Friday.

Claire McDonald, head of the Independent School said she learned about his book from a parent who recommended it.

She read through it, she said, and it appeared to fit nicely with what the school was doing already. The idea of having exercise in the classroom is not new to the school, she said.

"We typically begin school days doing tai chi," she said, or other forms of exercise.

"I think he's going to take us to the next level," McDonald said.

Rebecca McTavish, principal at Sacred Heart, said Mayhew came to the school several times last year to offer workshops at the teachers' request, and she expects they will have him come again this school year.

"His point was that children learn better when their little brains are nourished with blood flow," she said.

Mayhew and his wife met in college and soon learned they shared an interest in the work of fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who passed away last year at the age of 96. Active for most of their lives, they now work out together, often choosing running as their preferred form of cardiovascular exercise.

Mrs. Mayhew, 66, runs four miles three days a week, following that with interval circuits for about 12 minutes. She also strength trains three days a week.

"I usually do it in the morning, just to have it done," she said. "I know it's helping me, and it's enjoyable to a degree."

Her husband said she outruns up to 65 percent of 30 to 39-year-olds at the Apple Blossom Festival's 10K each year.

"It doesn't take that much exercise to make a difference," Mayhew said, later explaining, "It's the intensity that makes the difference."

"Twenty minutes and people can get the exercise they need."

For more information about Ed Mayhew's books or his workshops, visit FitterForLife.com. His books are available on Amazon.com.


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