Volume 80, Number 27 | December 2 - 8, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Janel Bladow

Harry Hanson, personal trainer

Move It!
Live longer, stronger and happier


If you want to feel younger, exercise. That’s the philosophy of personal trainer Harry Hanson who sees seniors as his favorite clients.

“Boomers are loyal clients,” he told Thrive. “They never leave you as long as you do the job they want. They care about being flexible, not getting injured, slowing aging process and staying healthy. They are great clients to have.

“Some come to lose weight or lower blood pressure or cholesterol. All this can be done with a combined program of strength training, cardio and diet.”

Hanson became a trainer 25 years ago after a man approached in him Washington Square Park and offered him a job. He was 225-pouns with 6-percent body fat. He didn’t even know what a personal trainer was.

“At that time it was extremely trendy,” he says. “People sat around at dinner parties and said they had a personal trainer. Now it’s built into your lifestyle. I was one of seven guys hired, from the dozens who applied.”

Hanson got certified and stayed at that Soho gym for 10 months before opening his own studio.

“My first client was Tom Cruise. He wanted me to become his exclusive trainer but I have a business here, family. We still get together sometimes when he’s in town.”

Today Hanson, the married father of an 18-year old daughter and a 13-year old son, has five studios – three in Manhattan, one in Boston and one in a private firm. He also owns two personal trainer schools – The Academy, in New York City and Boston.

“We are state licensed and internationally accredited. We graduate about 200 students a year and have 97-percent placement.”

But unlike most personal trainers, Hanson is driven not to bulk up young, athletic bodies (although he has plenty of those clients too!) but to strengthen older ones. That’s why he offers a senior discount at all of his studios.

His senior program incorporates a basic routine that is a total body workout. He believes that if you train two, three times a week, working on different parts of the body – chest, shoulders, back, biceps, core and legs – you get the proper workout to slow the aging process.

“Pilate’s, yoga, core classes, are all good but strength and resistance training are the best way to slow aging, stimulate cells and stay stronger longer,” he says.

Why is it important to exercise with age? “Every cell, fiber, tendon, ligament gets weaker as you get older,” Hanson explains. “The more sedentary you are, the faster your body dies. Exercise slows down aging process, constantly strengthens every cell.

“There are so many benefits from exercise: lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar, rids the body of toxins, makes the heart stronger, burns calories, improves digestion, clears mind, makes you feel good about yourself,” he lists.

“Strength training also strengthens bones to fight osteoporosis and prevent hip, knee and leg injury and improves bone density. You’re never too old to build bone density.

“I’ve had clients come in with a slight curvature of spine, back pain. Exercise can help ward off scoliosis. Stronger core muscles make bending easier. Stronger muscles mean a better quality of life.

“Most people don’t know how to pick up things the right way and often hurt their backs then can’t pick up groceries, their grandchildren.”

Hanson believes that with exercise you can cut down the number of visit you make to the doctor, saving you money in the long run. And by working with a personal trainer, you are less likely to injure yourself while working out than you are alone in a gym or at home.

Women are more likely to come to personal training than men, says Hanson. “Men think they can do it on their own but they can’t. Women, on the other hand, find when they work with a personal trainer that they’ve been using too much weight or not enough, and learn the correct range of motion. There are so many variables. This is why people hire trainers.”

Hanson told Thrive about one client, a very obese woman who came to him and said that she wanted to fly to Paris and walk around the City of Lights at least once before she died.

“She arrived the first time by car service,” he remembers. “She was in such bad shape that we had to help her up the stairs. She couldn’t climb them by herself. That was five years ago. She’s been to Paris five times since.”

He says the key to a successful workout is motivation. “Exercise will make you happier, increases confidence, help you feel better about yourself, and feel stronger,” he says.

Diet, he offers, is another important factor. He recommends seniors first see a doctor for blood tests and to check sugar and cholesterol levels. “Then, simply stay away from sugar! There’s absolutely zero benefit in sugar. Seniors should also cut back on carbs, anything made with flour. I’m not saying never eat it, but I believe in moderation to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle.”

His recommended carbohydrates: oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes.

“One time a week, eat whatever you want. Other six days, only those carbs. Give yourself a cheat day or cheat meal to look forward to. It makes it easier to be more disciplined.

“This is my life,” he continues enthusiastically. “I’m here to help people. I’m not a model or an actor. I’m here to help people feel good about themselves.”

And with that, he cites another client as an example.

“A 72-year old woman, her husband had been in a nursing home, started to workout. She started to feel better, feel better about herself. Now she’s met a guy and is in love. At 72! Exercise does that. It gives us all the confidence, well being, positive outlook. Imagine meeting someone and falling in love at 72?”

For more information on senior discounts or to schedule a session, visit: www.hansonfitness.com.



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