One of my favorite bands is They Might Be Giants (TMBG), a quirky duo of Johns from Brooklyn which produces eclectic, odd and brilliant music for both adults and children.
I’ve performed (with my old band Whistling Cadaver) the TMBG song “Older” on occasion (often a birthday) which includes the insightfully weird lines “You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older” and the wonderful “Time is marching on (at this point one must insert a long pause of variable duration) and time is still marching on.”
These words of wisdom have heretofore held true but in the last decade, many researchers and authors have declared that we can forestall the inevitable tide of aging. Books, podcasts, and websites abound on the topic and dominate the bestseller and high popularity lists.
Last week a patient gave me a book entitled “Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond – turn back your biological clock” which suggests that TMBG may have gotten it wrong.
The book first published in 2004 was written by a physician Henry Lodge (a Boston Brahmin and grandson of Henry Cabot Lodge) and his “star patient” Chris Crowley, a retired litigator. It became quite popular and morphed into an entire cottage industry.
“Younger Next Year” and the rest of the series, “Younger Next Year for Women: Live Like You’re 50 — Strong, Fit, Sexy — Until You’re 80 and Beyond” (2005), “Younger Next Year Journal” (2006) and “Younger Next Year: The Exercise Program” (2015), have more than two million copies in print and have been translated into 21 languages.
I found the book to be an easy read, written in a folksy, conversational style and alternating between brief sections written by each of the authors which present both the star patient’s perspective and the learned physicians. This makes the book appealing to the large audience that might benefit from its words of wisdom but less appealing to those who seek a more science-backed and advanced look at methods for enhancing longevity.
The blurb from the inner flap serves as a good summary of what is within:
“YOUNGER NEXT YEAR draws on the very latest science of aging to show how men 50 or older can become functionally younger every year for the next five to ten years, and continue to live like fifty-year-olds until well into their eighties. To enjoy life and be stronger, healthier, and more alert. To stave off 70% of the normal decay associated with aging (weakness, sore joints, apathy). and to eliminate over 50% of all illness and potential injuries.”
Ultimately, according to YNY, the secret to successful aging centers on following Dr. Lodge’s simples rules:
- Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.
- Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life.
- Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life.
- Spend less than you make.
- Quit eating crap!
- Connect and Commit.
For the most part, I agree with these rules. In particular, the immense value of regular aerobic, strength and flexibility exercise in prolonging one’s healthspan cannot be overemphasized.
Exercise is the most powerful medicine we have against aging and the authors spend a lot of time trying to convince readers of this and suggesting ways to facilitate and activate a good exercise program.
It is for this reason that I would recommend the book to any patient or reader who is not currently regularly exercising.
In 2015, “Younger Next Year: The Exercise Program” was published which gives more specific details and recommendations. I haven’t read this but you can read a well-written review of the book from a discerning physical trainer here. I’m on a continuous quest to find the best exercise program for myself and my patients and realized that I already have incorporated many of the 25 resistance exercises (downloadable PDF here) mentioned in the book into my regular routine.
When my patient gave me this book he told me that Dr. Lodge had died at a youngish age. Alas, sadly this is true. He died of prostate cancer at age 58 and his NY Times obituary can be found here.
It’s never too late to start an exercise program. A year ago I bought Pops Pearson, my 92-year-old father, a recumbent exercise bicycle. He had become unable to walk on his exercise treadmill due to balance and orthopedic issues with a subsequent decline in his overall physical and mental well-being. After starting regular work-outs on the bicycle he now feels stronger and better than he has in years!
N.B. The authors of YNY imply that we all know what qualifies as “crap.” The brief details they provide on what we should and should not eat are not unreasonable, however, they mistakenly promote skim milk and non-fat dairy. Best to follow Dr. P’s diet recommendations.
N.B.2 Since my patient was kind of enough to give me this book and I’ve finished reading it I’m going to pass it on to the first patient of mine to leave a comment indicating they want it.