Veon McReynolds and members of Tour de Hood. Photo courtesy of Veon McReynolds.

How many people do you know who celebrated their 70th birthday by going on a 140-plus mile bike ride? Well, if you know Veon McReynolds, you know at least one.

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. So much so, McReynolds was recently featured by AARP, serving as an aspirational example for other seniors to invest in a healthier lifestyle, including more exercise and a healthier diet.

Dr. V, a former TSU 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. McReynolds leads countless biking “tours” around the city, kayaking experiences and camping outings.

The Defender caught up with McReynolds, fresh off his birthday ride that came just weeks after an 800-plus mile bike ride from Houston to Atlanta, to get insights into his health-conscious, vegan diet, activist work and overall commitment to wholistic health.

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

VEON MCREYNOLDS: When I got into being healthy was when I went into undergraduate school. I was trying to get myself together. 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. The people I was around, that was maybe not the height of the Black Power Movement, but it was, I’d say, the Black Conscious Movement. And 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.

DEFENDER: What do you think about society’s move towards becoming healthier?

VEON MCREYNOLDS: I think it’s a couple of things. One, we cannot continue to operate, farming and consumption of meat, the planet won’t stand it. We’re killing the planet the way we’re eating. It’s not only killing us, it’s killing the planet. The large amounts of water and pollution that come from big agribusiness and factory farming, the planet can’t stand it. The planet is showing us that “What you’re doing is killing me as well as yourself.” So, people are moving away from that. We see now we’ve got the different (impossible) burgers and more restaurant, Burger King and even McDonald’s and many of the major chains have things that are geared toward veganism, vegetarianism, trying to take away that stuff that we know causes a lot of inflammation in the system. So, yeah, I do see a change moving.

DEFENDER: What was it about you that allowed this healthy lifestyle message to click?

VEON MCREYNOLDS: I was really serious about building my community. If you’re serious, you will take good care of your health. If you take good care of your health, your family will be healthier. And if your family is healthy, then it’s spread out in the community.

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

VEON MCREYNOLDS: I do some kayaking. When 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.

DEFENDER: What are the benefits of an active lifestyle?

VEON 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. When I was first trying to be a vegetarian and they’d say, “You’re a health nut; it’s not going to make any difference.” It was scary (thinking) that you’re not going to get enough protein, this is going to happen, that’s going to happen. But, having faith in the diet and then those things didn’t happen, it makes me feel good. And knowing that, what I did, others can do the same thing. You can look at me and there’s an example there. You can read it in the textbook, you can see what I’ve done over the past 40-plus years to solidify my health. Other people can do the same thing. I don’t care what sport you’re in or any type of thing that requires some discipline, diet comes in to play.

DEFENDER: Are you are a father, a grandfather?

VEON MCREYNOLDS: Actually, I had four children. Two of them have now passed. I have two sons still living: one in Puerto Rico and the other across the street from me in Houston. They’re in their twenties. I started late.

DEFENDER: Have you been able to pass this passion down to your sons?

VEON MCREYNOLDS: Yes, to a certain degree. They’re both very health-conscious. One son, he’s a fitness trainer and has his massage license. He’s very much into diet. The other son, he used to race bikes and stuff and he’s still in the diet. Having grown up like that, even though they may veer away, the thought is still there.

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

VEON 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.