The authors of Younger Next Year boldly claim you can turn back your biological clock. By following their suggestions, a person in their sixties or seventies can be fitter and healthier than they were in their fifties.
The book is a guide to aging well, mainly aimed at men approaching or thinking about retirement. (There’s a companion book for women.) It’s written by a doctor and his former patient, a lawyer.
Chris Crowley spent 25 years as a litigation lawyer in New York before co-authoring the Younger Next Year series of books.
Henry S. Lodge, was a New York doctor specializing in geriatric medicine. In the late 1990’s he realized that his patients in their 50’s and 60’s were having heart attacks and strokes, or becoming diabetic, often due to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. He partnered with his then patient Chris Crowley on the Younger Next Year books.
Younger Next Year, 2nd Edition
Live Strong, Fit, Sexy and Smart – Until You’re 80 and Beyond
By Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge
Workman Publishing, New York, 2019
Their prescription is simple:
- Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life (four days of aerobic exercise and two days of strength training with weights)
- Stop eating crap
- Connect with family, friends and community
These recommendations aren’t revolutionary, at least not by today’s standards.
There’s plenty of research showing that poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and social isolation lead to bad health outcomes. For example, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in his 2020 book Together that lack of social connection has about the same negative health impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Younger Next Year isn’t the sort of book I normally read. There are so many books about wellness, happiness, and fitness, often contradicting each other, that it’s hard to know which ones are worth reading and which parts of those few are worth following.
But a friend recommended this one and I’m certainly in the target age group, so I thought I’d give it a try.
A few things make this book appealing. The first is the authors’ fervent optimism that aging doesn’t have to mean inevitable decay and decline following retirement. They claim:
“… over. 50 percent of all the illnesses and injuries in the last third of your life can be eliminated by changing your lifestyle in the way we suggest.” [p. 7]
“… 70 percent of premature death is lifestyle related. ‘Premature’ means before you’re deep into your eighties.” [p. 7]
Now I don’t know where they got these numbers or even what exactly they’re measuring, so I take them with a large heap of salt. However, I think the overall message that you can have “an unimagined degree of control over your own aging, health and quality of life” makes sense.
The second thing I liked about the book is how it’s written. Crowley and Lodge write alternating chapters. Lodge details the scientific and medical background while Crowley provides the personal stories, the encouragement and the optimism about living well, well into your eighties.
The foundation of it all seems to be evolutionary biology. Lodge and Crowley argue that our bodies still behave as though we’re hunter-gatherers, running after our food in tight-knit clan or tribal groups. A mere ten thousand years of agriculture and civilization haven’t changed how our bodies are wired. They say the only time our prehistoric ancestors sat around for long periods of time was when there were no animals to hunt, i.e. during a famine. To survive, our bodies preserved energy by storing it up in fat. Today, when we sit around, our bodies think we’re in famine and continue to store fat despite our full cupboards and refrigerators. So we need to get up and move, vigorously, to get our bodies out of fat-storing famine mode.
Finally, I really liked the emphasis on connection and community as a key element in maintaining good health.
In the end, of course, there’s no escaping death and the decline that comes with it. Other things are beyond our control too, like our genetic inheritance, good and bad. Tragically, Henry Lodge himself died of fast-moving prostate cancer at the age of only 58.
But some things are within our control like how much we exercise and what we choose to eat and how we engage with others. Younger Next Year gives some directions and some hope for living healthier, more active, and more connected lives for far longer than we may have imagined.
Thanks for reading. Now get up and go for a walk. 🙂
Hmm, perhaps I will find a copy of this to share with my dad, who is due for retirement 😄
LikeLiked by 1 person
I have much room for improvement with #2 especially: stop eating crap. 😉 I kid my husband that we sometimes still eat like we’re teenagers, which is not good for us. Sounds like an interesting book.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Pingback: Life Is Hard | Unsolicited Feedback