The Keys to Aging Well

Published February 1, 2008

Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond
by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D.
New York, NY: Workman Publishing, Inc.
320 pages, hardcover, ISBN: 9780761134237, $24.95.

Over 50 percent of all illness and injuries in the last third of your life can be eliminated by changing your lifestyle. Not just delayed–eliminated. Premature death is related to lifestyle–and “premature” today means before you are well into your 80s.

Seventy percent of the normal decay associated with aging–weakness, sore joints, and poor balance–can be forestalled, say the authors of Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond.

Chris Crowley, 70, and Henry Lodge, a 46-year-old common-sense medical doctor, tell you how to accomplish this, in a lighthearted, easily understandable, frequently funny book that is an excellent read for anyone wanting to maintain their vitality and independence as they age.

Simple Changes

The bottom line: You must exercise hard almost every day, learn to quit eating things you know are bad for you, and reduce your food portions.

Don’t waste your time on established diets, all of which are intended to make someone else rich while invariably leaving you holding the bag with every pound you lost, gained back with dividends, the authors say. They accurately expose the fact that your genes are no excuse for weight gain, as they rarely account for more than 20 percent of your weight problem.

Great Conversation

Not a how-to book, Younger Next Year reads like a fun conversation between you and some very funny, pushy old friends. Their discussion of how retirees fall apart, not just physically but mentally, with a lot of years still ahead, will make you think twice about retiring in the first place–even if it means becoming the best greeter Wal-Mart ever dreamed of.

But they don’t whitewash the aging process, either. Our skin will wrinkle, and our maximum heart rate will decline, so invariably we must look old–but we can dramatically reduce the decay that makes people act and feel old.

Lodge says you can have a life characterized by strong, aerobically fit muscles, a healthy heart, lean body, good bones, good immunity, a high sex drive, and an alert, inquisitive, optimistic mind.

Readers will learn a lot of good biology and physiology, with a few episodes of eye glaze. But you can always race ahead to the more practical advice, such as that you must prioritize your fitness efforts as you do your work–you cannot afford to miss either. They correctly point out that people are not tired at the end of the day because they get too much exercise, but because they had too little.

Not for Athletes Only

One of the book’s most profound points deals with the attitudes of non-athletes who are uncomfortable with their prior inability to have excelled in sports, when in fact it is those who once excelled who fail in later life when their talents decline, causing them to walk away from athletic activity completely.

Those who have never excelled have the distinct advantage of not having the “been there, done that, attitude” and thus can look forward to long periods of continuous improvement.

The authors are a little too focused on gyms and classes for my taste–$100 worth of dumbbells and a $1,000 aerobic machine (stationary bicycle, treadmill, elliptical, etc.) will save you all the commute time and weather obstacles–but that is your choice.

While I don’t believe you need a personal trainer two days a week, their advice on the importance of resistance training with an emphasis on free weights is outstanding.

Use or Lose

Those who have seen me ride my unicycle across the pages of one or more Heartland publications know I am an expert in fitness and nutrition, continuing to compete in Ironman Triathlons at 71, but I could never write a book as folksy and readable as this.

Mine would likely be a “by the numbers, marine drill sergeant instructional manual” readers would quickly abandon. I cannot recommend this book too highly to anyone who wishes to be vital in their 70s and 80s.

If reduced activity and some form of extended care are an attractive future to you, don’t waste your time reading this book. But if you think you could manage a fairly simple lifestyle change in exchange for decades of a more youthful demeanor, this book is the place to start.

As dentists have been known to say, “If you do not have time to floss all your teeth each day, simply floss those you wish to keep.” Crowley and Lodge would likewise say if you don’t have time to exercise all your muscles and organs daily, just work those you wish to continue using as the years go by.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is The Heartland Institute’s science director.