Move it or lose it: Bestselling author on how to keep the years at bay

WORK IT OUT: Exercising six days a week, including two days of lifting weights, is recommended to increase your life expectancy. Picture: iStock

The advice on longevity outlined in Younger Next Year, which was first published in 2006, is as true as ever, as its 84-year-old co-author demonstrates, says Margaret Jennings

A NEW year is on the horizon and with it an invitation to reassess our health and fitness.

It’s tempting to kickback as we age — not enough time, aching bones, tiredness — but for every step you take, the payoff is impressive.

Looking for inspiration? Check out a bestselling book that claims 70% of ageing is voluntary and that you can avoid half of the illnesses you might expect to get from age 50 onwards. It has sold two million copies in 24 languages. Readers say that its maxims have “saved” their lives or “changed” them, according to one of its two co-authors, Chris Crowley.

Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond was written 12 years ago. But although American Chris, who is now 84, is an amazingly fit and healthy ambassador for this lifestyle bible, his co-author, medical doctor and friend, Harry Lodge, died in 2017, at the untimely age of 58.

While there are numerous books advising third-agers how to live healthily in their longevity, ‘Harry’s Seven Rules’, which were a highlight of the original book, struck a chord with many.

They are:

  • 1, Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life;
  • 2, Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life;
  • 3, Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life;
  • 4, Spend less than you make;
  • 5, Quit eating crap!;
  • 6, Care (about yourself and how you live your life daily);
  • 7, Connect and commit (socially).
    • The guide was an almost evangelistic call to action, physical action. But the authors also reasonably pointed out that there’s a “randomness to disease and death, just as there is a randomness to life. There’s genetics, which matters much less than people think, but still matters some. And then, there’s rotten luck.”

      When asked now, about Harry’s death, so young, of prostate cancer, Chris tells Feelgood: “That was one of the hardest things in my life. We became very close friends, very fast. He followed the Younger Next Year rules more closely than I do. His death was one of those horrendous, chance things that can happen, regardless of behavioural change.

      “Harry experienced unusually rampant cancer in his prostate... just rotten luck. He was not one of those doctors who did not take care of himself.”

      However, Chris argues that despite such tragic random happenings, the average chances of you living a long, healthy life are radically improved if you follow the Younger Next Year programme.

      “Our regimen is not a perfect antidote to illness and injury. But it will improve your chances tremendously. Most of those who follow it will, indeed, put off 70% of ageing until near the end of life. So — despite the randomness of death — there is every reason to embark on the programme. Also, the quality of life, while you are doing it, is radically improved, regardless. I have been there and I know.”

      Chris says he tries pretty hard to walk the walk. “I am a weak reed, God knows. I have been pretty good about the exercise-six-days part and the social involvement part. But here’s the interesting thing: even my imperfect adherence has had remarkable results. People are routinely astonished to hear that I am 84.

      “At my tender age, I am still skiing the bumps, routinely riding my bike up to 50 miles, cross-country skiing and rowing, as well as giving tons of speeches, and I’m fast at work on the next book.”

      His wife, Hilary, who did not exercise before they met, 26 years ago, and is only a “hair or two” younger, has followed suit.

      “We divide our time between New York City and the Berkshire Hills. One of the great blessings of both our lives is that we do all this stuff together. She is every bit as active and dedicated as I am. We bike and ski together all the time... spin class... the works! It’s been a joy.”

      At his age, he says, “You feel the lengthening shadow of your pending death all the time — too bad, but true. The great trick, it seems to me, is to more or less ignore that, and live the best and most vigorous life you can.

      “Clearly, you slow down some. I feel that all the time. But way less than most people think. My energy, cognitive acuity, and optimism are at the centre of my life. I am absolutely certain that the Younger Next Year programme has everything to do with all those things,” he adds.

      “The Younger Next Year books have been around for 12 years now and no-one disagrees with the fundamental thesis or claims. No-one. And many doctors hand the books out routinely to their patients. This remarkable stuff is true.”

      The latest book in the series, just published, is The Younger Next Year Back Book: The Whole-Body Plan to Conquer Back Pain Forever, by Chris Crowley and Jeremy James, which includes over 40 exercises to strengthen your core and balance your spine.

      The other books in the Younger Next Year series can be seen at - https://www.workman.com/brands/younger-next-year

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