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Fit as a fiddle at 92, former Air Marshal P V Iyer shares his fitness mantras in new book

After running for 1 lakh kms, (Retired) Air Marshal PV Iyer wants India to know that it is never too late to start training in 'Fit at Any Age', his latest book.

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New Delhi: If there’s one person you can take fitness advice from with your eyes closed, it’s former Air Marshal P V Iyer. At the age of 92, Iyer’s main mantra is to ‘just move your legs’. In his latest book ‘Fit At Any Age: A Practitioner’s Guide’,  the Air Force veteran shared his fitness mantras and regimes that will leave any reader motivated if not gobsmacked. A consistent runner and strength trainer, Iyer has looked back at his fitness journey and offered pearls of wisdom to get India moving.

During a book discussion at the India International Center in Delhi Tuesday, Iyer shared anecdotes from his past and focused on the message he wishes to share with his audience – that “it is truly never too late to start, you can be fit at any age. If you are in your 50s or 60s or more, it doesn’t matter.”

The event hosted a panel consisting the author and former Comptroller and Auditor General of India Rajiv Mehrishi and was moderated by Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of ThePrint.

Throughout the evening, the audience was stunned listening to Iyer’s discipline and regime. When asked about his daily routine, he revealed that he runs roughly 7-8 kms a day, which takes him around 2 hours to complete, and then proceeds to work out for another 90 minutes or so at his home gym. In fact, one of his fondest memories as part of the Air Force was running from Agra to Delhi for Air Force Day celebrations at the age of 50.

Just get up and move!

When asked about his main mantra or piece of advice to people that do not have a stringent fitness routine, the author said, “Moving your legs is the most important thing. The legs have the most muscles, so do anything that makes your legs move! You must put in work for a minimum of 25 minutes continuously. That’s how it is different from your regular moving around in your day-to-day life.” He further added that to him, the essence of fitness is “a sound heart”, and the only way to keep a healthy heart is by “making it work harder and thereby becoming stronger”.

During the discussion, former CAG Mehrishi shared an anecdote that made the audience collectively gasp in shock. He said that P V Iyer would run on platforms of all the long stop stations and also run between compartments when he travelled by train. “And that relationship between activity and linking it with every aspect of your being is something that he points out so well in this book”, he said.

Mehrishi’s favorite quote that encapsulates the message of the book was, “An idle body is a devil’s den.”

Published by Bloomsbury India, ‘Fit At Any Age: A Practitioner’s Guide’ records multiple such anecdotes and also sheds light on Iyer’s experience in the 1970s, when he was confronted with the Indian Air Force’s new policy demanding minimum age-specific physical fitness to be eligible for promotion. The book records his realisations and reflections on fitness and physical training as he set out to train for this new policy.

Photo by Shania Mathew | ThePrint Team
Retired Air Marshal P V Iyer signing copies of his book| Photo: Shania Mathew/ThePrint

No secret pill

Rajiv Mehrishi and Shekhar Gupta were curious about Iyer’s diet and his daily eating habits.

“Or maybe you could tell us what you drink too!”, added Shekhar Gupta which prompted a raucous laugh from the audience. But Iyer follows no magic pill or diet. His South Indian balanced diet is sufficient for his strict regime and he advised the same to the audience.

“Avoid following fads. Nowadays you see a model in a car and you think it’s a good car and buy it. But instead look at the brakes, look at the gears, don’t look at the model and just make a purchase.We must use our God-given common sense,” he said.

Similarly, he told the audience to avoid blindly following fads and other trending diets. When he proceeded to ask Iyer if he took any supplements or tablets, he retorted with, “the only supplements I take are supplementary drinks, my whiskey and soda that is.”

Photo by Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
P V Iyer and Shekhar Gupta flip through pages of the book | Photo: Manisha Mondal/ThePrint

Being mentally fit

Apart from the heavy emphasis he gives to physical training and exercise, Iyer believes that being physically and mentally fit are correlated. When an audience member asked him to comment further on this correlation, he remarked, “What is the use of all this fitness if not for doing creative work?”

He went on to state that by being physically fit, one earns the biggest rewards – a sense of confidence, the desire to learn new things, good appetite and a natural facial glow and a sense of achievement. To him, the two go hand in hand. He advised a concerned marathoner from the audience to think of these rewards on days where one is tempted to skip a session or feel a sense of laziness or demotivation.

Can fitness culture beat genetics?

Shekhar Gupta raised a question on the role fitness culture has against genetics and wished to hear Iyer’s take on the same. The author asserted that “our prehistoric ancestors gave us great genes”, and that it is all about ensuring we fill our organs with oxygenated blood and let it do its job.

Photo by Shania Mathew | ThePrint Team
The audience mostly comprised of Air Force officials | Photo: Shania Mathew/ThePrint

ThePrint is a media partner.


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