By Aswad Walker

The Caregivers is a unique series focused on the challenges and triumphs of caregiving. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership between AARP and Word In Black.

Veon McReynolds, affectionately known by many simply as Dr. V, is a long-time health enthusiast who is serious about an active lifestyle and a healthy diet. The former Texas Southern University professor is the founder of 3rd Ward’s Tour de Hood, a non-profit geared toward getting people practical information and activities for better mental and physical health. Dr. V leads countless biking tours around the city, kayaking experiences and camping outings.

Regarding diet, McReynolds has been a vegan since the Black Consciousness Movement of the 1960s and 70s. His passion for personal health is also reflected in his activist work geared toward creating a healthier planet.

The Defender caught up with McReynolds fresh off an 800-plus mile bike ride from Houston to Atlanta, to get insights on the soon-to-be 70-year-old’s commitment to a health-conscious lifestyle.

You seem extremely active. Has that been your lifestyle always?

MCREYNOLDS: Actually, I came out of prison and I had vocational rehabilitation at that time. They were actually trying to rehabilitate people then, so I got a little scholarship to go to college during the Black Conscious Movement. Part of that was getting your health together. Because if you’re not healthy, how can you have a healthy community? Dick Gregory was one of my idols. I got to meet him and talk with him about his diet. The people around me were all going toward the vegetarian diet. At that point, that’s when I was about 23, I changed my diet to being a vegan; no more animal products. And I’ve been on that health kick ever since.

What activities do you do to maintain and improve your health?

MCREYNOLDS: I do some kayaking. When SH-288 floods I’ve been caught out there in “Lake 288.” I just finished competing in nationals for cycling. Part of my training for that, I was swimming on a regular basis. I used to go roller skating almost every Sunday. Those were my major activities of getting out. I do a lot of camping, getting out to nature, that sort of stuff.

What are the benefits of an active lifestyle?

MCREYNOLDS: I think intellectually or emotionally knowing that I’m in good health gives me peace of mind. If I don’t have to go and take these pills to live, that’s peace of mind, right there. Being able to walk or to move my body around, that gives me peace of mind. And on top of it, being 70-years-old and in good health and not needing those things and being able to provide myself as an example to others, that makes me feel good.

For those 65 and older folks who aren’t as active, but maybe want to be, what advice would you give them?

MCREYNOLDS: Quit fooling yourself, because if you don’t take your health as a priority, not as a second or third priority, but as a first priority, if you don’t take care of your health, you’re not going to be here. I would suggest that people go out and start doing some sort of physical activity, whether it’s gardening, walking. If you’re able to run, do that. If you can’t do that, if you can only go to the pool and walk in the pool, some type of resistance activity, something that’s going to increase your heart rate. Any activity is good, but whatever you do try to do it at the maximum for whatever period you. You want to get your heart rate up as high as you possibly can for a short period.