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power crunch

David Suzuki at Ron Zalko’s gym in Vancouver. He says too much lab work had led to a pot belly.

David Suzuki, 74, science broadcaster, environmental activist and volunteer fundraiser for the David Suzuki Foundation, has been exercising for 30 years. After six weeks of press for the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie, he's now begun to reclaim his workout routine:

My goal:

"To stay alive. For me, exercise is not about looking good. I go to the gym for my medicine."

My workout:

"I was running outdoors in such a heavy way, five to eight miles a day, five days a week; I got down to below my high-school weight, but I buggered up my knees, so now I go to the gym to use the machines.

"I work out at Ron Zalko's gym [Ron Zalko Fitness and Yoga]three days a week. I designed my workout and I have a series of exercises that focus on my stomach. I tore my shoulder when I was snowboarding at 65, so I have a series of exercises for that. I start with 30 minutes on the elliptical; from that I do leg lifts, sit-ups and straight sets of free weights for shoulders, and then machines for chest and biceps.

"In the summer, I hike and swim."

My lifestyle:

"[I]note>We shun red meat, but eat eggs, chicken and fish. I'm not a breakfast guy. For me it's get up, have a coffee and go to work. My idea of a wonderful breakfast is leftovers from a Japanese meal the night before. It's called ochazuke: You take cold rice and pour hot tea on it and eat that with pickles and a bit of salmon.

"Our foundation works a four-day work week. Usually my workout is before dinner, so I come home and have a beer because after I work out the beer goes right to my head, so I get a buzz off of that. My wife has a nice Japanese meal for me. The one indulgence I have when travelling is Panago's thin-crust pizza with everything on it."

My motivation:

"I married a woman 13 years younger than me in 1972, and I had been a scientist all my life, and looking through a microscope for years I developed a pot. I had worked in construction for eight years going through college, so I was in great shape, but it was the sitting in front of a microscope that did me in. What came home to me was I landed at O'Hare airport, with a series of concourses and Air Canada at the end. I had half an hour to make my flight, and I picked up my suitcase and ran, and I was so winded that I thought, 'My God, Suzuki, you are out of shape!' So, partly [my motivation is]a younger woman and recognition I had got away from it.

"Also, I'd like to hang around to be there with my wife, and I have grandchildren and I love the idea of being there to see them start off their lives. They are worth working out for."

My anthem:

I don't listen to music.

My challenge:

"When I travel, making time to exercise."

The critique

Dr. Suzuki's workout doesn't need to be changed because of his age, but rather tailored to meet his needs, says Tish Doyle-Baker, a doctor of public health and a certified exercise physiologist. She offers a couple of suggestions on how Dr. Suzuki can get better results from his workout.

Switch to quick, dynamic supersets

"Move to workouts that are short in duration (20 to 45 minutes), involve intensity and can occur in or outside of a gym. Do compound movements that involve his body weight followed by isolation movements with some equipment (elastic bands, medicine balls, dumbbells) to maximize muscle maintenance and fat burning. This method is called supersetting - two exercises, one after the other, with no rest in between - and the exercises can be for the same muscle group or two different muscle groups, and he could modify it by doing circuit training."

Add an office workout

Dr. Doyle-Baker, who is an associate professor at the University of Calgary, prescribes this office or travel workout, which requires no equipment:

Warm-up: walking, five to 10 minutes

Set 1: 10 push-ups, 15 bodyweight squats, repeat for two sets.

Set 2: Plank holds (hold as long as possible, taking short breaks, for a total of three minutes).

Set 3: Five push-ups, 10 bodyweight squats, repeat for four sets.

Set 4: Plank holds, see above.

Set 5: Eight push-ups, 12 bodyweight squats, repeat for three sets

Set 6: Plank holds, see above.

Cool-down: walking, five to 10 minutes, followed by stretching.

"After every four to six weeks, David should change his workout to add variety and intensity by adding one more set of to-fatigue push-ups/ bodyweight squats because when this number increases he's clearly improving."