Exercise Nuts Live Longer; Live Better

YoungerNextYear_10262013Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge.  2007.  Younger Next Year:  Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy–Until You’re 80 and Beyond.  Male and Female editions.  New York:  Workman Publishing.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

My annual physical examination yielded a surprising result this month–my cholesterol statistics improved rather markedly.  What had I done differently?  Really only two things:  I ate more fresh vegetables and I added resistance training to my daily exercise.  What did these two things have in common?  They were both recommendations from Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge’s book, Younger Next Year.

Crowley and Lodge make an audacious claim:  over 50 percent of all illness and injuries in the last third of your life can be eliminated by changing your lifestyle (7).  What changes do they recommend?  A big part of their advice is regular, strenuous exercise  including resistance training.  What is regular?  At least six days a week.  What is strenuous?  Exercise able to provide an aerobic effect.  What is resistance training?  They recommend a program of weight lifting.  If you follow their advice, then you can remain like a physically fit, 50 year-old well past the age of 80.

Crowley and Lodge’s claim is credible for two reasons.

First, when I worked as a chaplain intern in 2011 and 2012, I noticed that about half the patients that I visited in the emergency department were there as a consequence of poor lifestyle choices.  Poor choices included things like obesity, drug addiction, sexual adventurism, and so on.  Later, the chief surgeon in the department corrected my estimate and claimed that poor lifestyle choices actually accounted for about three-quarters of the visits to the deparment.

Second, the Washington Post ran an article earlier in the year comparing life-expectancy in two Florida counties.  The first county was populated by exercise nuts and the second county by couch potatoes.  The article reported that the exercise nuts were living healthier and several years longer than the couch potatoes.  This issue caught Congress’ attention (the reason for the article) because the difference in life expectancy rates and health outcomes implied that the exercise nuts were being subsidized by the couch potatoes in federal benefit programs, such as social security and medicare.  Politicians are good at following the money trail!

Crowley is a retired attorney;  Lodge is his physician and an expert in gereatric (old age) medicine.  The one knows how to get your attention;  the other knows how to keep it.

The book is organized into two parts:  taking charge of your body and taking charge of your life.  Part 1–Taking charge of your body–deals with the problem that after age 50 your body begins to athropy.  Exercise helps to maintain  an active metabolism and retain body weight.  In other words, use it or loose it.  Part2–taking charge of your life–focuses on the problem of remaining emotionally active and connected when the natural tendency is to slow down and withdraw.

While many of the topics covered in this book may be found elsewhere, a real surprise comes in the chapter entitled:  The Biology of Strength Training (165).  Being an aerobics kind of guy, I might have skipped this chapter, but that would have been a big mistake.  ***Weight training builds not only strength, but also coordination.***  Both outcomes reduce senior injuries from falls.  More strength means that we have the strength to reverse a fall; better coordination means that we catch ourselves more quickly when we fall.  Because seniors often are hospitalized because of falls, this insight is a big deal.

Younger Next Year is a book that I have gifted to most older members of my family.  More generally, the need for the church to focus on the body as the temple of God’s Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) is long overdue.  Some might be squeamish about the authors’ indelicate comments about senior sexuality, but motor on–the book’s benefits outweigh the cost.

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