Exercise and a few simple rules can help senior citizens enjoy what should be the most productive years of their lives, a 69-year-old heart specialist and author told a group of senior citizens in Layton.

Dr. George Sheehan was guest speaker at the opening and enrollment of the Humana Seniors Association, a senior citizens group sponsored by Humana Hospital Davis North.The group, one of 70 national chapters, offers social events, special services, and discounts to members 65 and older.

Sheehan is the author of four fitness books and a columnist for a physician's sports medicine magazine. He advised the seniors to enjoy, not bemoan, their advanced age and maturity.

"You've spent most of your life either earning a living or learning how to earn a living," Sheehan said. "Now you are in a position to actually resume living in a potentially creative cycle.

"A very small percentage of the aging process is due to the advancement of years. Premature aging is mostly due to inactivity," said Sheehan.

His own prescription for a healthy and fit life includes 30 minutes of simple exercise four times a week along with six other rules derived from a California study of senior citizens.

They include eating good breakfasts and light dinners, maintaining weight similar to the individual's at age 20, getting adequate sleep and taking regular afternoon naps.

"The great thinkers in history have all exercised through running or walking. And they've all been great nappers," said Sheehan. "Enjoy exercise and don't press yourself to compete with others. An athlete is nothing special. We are all athletes in our own way."

He urged seniors to take control of their own health and emphasize a healthy lifestyle instead of dependence on prescription drugs.

"Tomorrow the next medical breakthrough can occur in your own kitchen when you begin taking responsibility for your own health," he said. "You can't treat your own diseases since they are entrenched. But you can get fit and enjoy the most desirable stage of life."

Sheehan poked fun at the "new Puritanism" of today's yuppies, saying eggs can still be included in a diet if a person's cholesterol level is under control, margarine is not significantly healthier than butter, and it's silly to worry about the health benefits of brown rice over a baked potato.

"Moderate your diet and get out and exercise," Sheehan said. "Enjoyment doesn't come through non-significant limitations. The fun of living will last much longer than the fads."