Howard Booth: 3 Ways to Stay Fit at 72


Accomplishments come in an abundance for 72 year old Howard Booth, who has registered for the fourth time to compete in the Meijer State Games of Michigan Summer Games. Howard’s competitive nature and commitment to physical fitness has led him to two world pole vault championships along with over 25 national championship gold medals throughout years of competing in track & field.

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Howard grew up in Mio, Michigan where he loved the outdoors and “mixing a love of nature with sports.” This love grew as Howard was a four sport athlete starting in junior high where he participated in track along with football, basketball, and baseball.

Howard’s accomplishments started at an early age as he set school and league records in pole vault, leading to a fourth place finish in the State Class D Championships. Howard also set school records in the low hurdle and high hurdle events making him a top athlete in the state of Michigan.

The commitment to being fit continued into college as Howard added gymnastics and cheerleading to his pole vaulting career. Howard now sits with his name etched among very few as he was inducted to the Eastern Michigan University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.

From a very young age Howard knew that his passion was for nature and sports. Howard has now retired from a 47 year teaching career as a professor of Biology at Eastern Michigan University, but that does not mean he is going to stop “practicing what I preached” to the over 18,000 students he taught in his career as a professor. Howard continues to participate in anything fitness that he can get involved in along with coaching EMU athletes in their pursuit of fitness.

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Howard strongly believes in the idea that the Meijer State Games of Michigan embodies, that athletes should be able to participate at any age. This belief led to Howard’s rediscovery of pole vault at the age of 61. Having competed in multiple events over the years, Howard had given up his first love of pole vault as he had gotten older. It was not until he saw 60-year-old athletes competing in the pole vault at the Michigan Senior Olympics that made him wonder if he could still do that. Howard began to believe he could pole vault again so he found a fresh proper sized maple sampling and he trimmed it into his own personal vaulting pole at the age of 61. Then using trash bags full of leaves to land on, Howard began to practice pole vault once again. After a lot of practice, Howard decided to enter the MSO men’s 60-64 age group pole vaulting competition and as he states, “I was hooked.”

Howard is now a 72-years-old master’s athlete that participates in the Meijer State Games of Michigan pole vault, long jump, 100m, and 200m competitions while enjoying being the same 125 pound athlete he was as a junior in high school.

With all that Howard has been able to accomplish in his life, he has three tips he believes everyone should keep in mind about how to maintain healthy living:

1. Find sports or activities you enjoy and pursue those enthusiastically.

You have to stay very active for your whole life according to Howard. He suggests to “work the whole body and add intensity cautiously. It has great benefits.” The key to being able to work the whole body is to find those sports and activities you enjoy most and stick with them because as he discovered through his pole vaulting story, with practice and hard work your body is more capable than you think it can be.

2. Quality NOT quantity.

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The quality of what you do is much more important than the quantity of what you do when it comes to fitness. Howard puts this rule into place especially when it comes to eating habits. He says, “Eating 90% good for you food and 10% delicious treats” is the best way to approach healthy eating habits. Howard also believes that taking the time to count your calories throughout your life is extremely beneficial. The quantity of fitness means nothing if you do not do it with quality.

3. Go through life with a positive attitude.

The most important quality to Howard is to be positive and to “involve the people around you in your activities.” Howard talked about how if it was not for his wife being his fitness partner, it would have been much more difficult to accomplish what he has in his life. People are there for you as you should be there for them, so Howard believes that you should involve those special people in your life as much as you can.

Howard has been an inspiration to so many people in his athletic journey. Howard is not done either, as he has many more goals he looks to accomplish. The next goal for Howard is to head to Perth, Australia for the Masters Athletics Outdoor World Championships. His participation in the 2016 Meijer State Games of Michigan Track & Field event is another stepping stone to achieving that goal.

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The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event(s) that welcome athletes regardless of age or ability level. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living.

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