takeaways from "younger next year for women"


Younger Next Year for Women by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge MD is a fun read, so by all means read it if you want to.  But I sped read it today and pulled out the important points to save you the time.  It’s a great book about how getting older is inevitable, but being a broken, sick, useless old person is not.  This edition of the book is for women, but the advice is nearly universal.

The book is holistic and deals with physical and mental health, and touches on financial well-being and the importance of community.  But the main point, from start to finish, is that after the age of fifty, exercise is no longer optional.  You have to exercise or get old, and by getting old, the authors mean broken down and falling apart.

Crowley and Lodge fully acknowledge that as you get older, you are going to look older; that your maximum heart rate goes down a little every year, that your skin and hair get weird (“Tough, what did you expect?”)  But 70% of what people believe about the inevitability of aging is optional.  You do have to age, but in the authors’ words “you don’t have to rot.”  Here are the takeaways:

Exercise:

  • A sedentary, stressful lifestyle is what’s going to kill you.  Exercise changes your blood chemistry and reverses the inevitable downward spiral of aging.
  • Exercise one hour a day.  Make it your new job, because it is your job.

“Life is an endurance event, train for it.”

  • Join a gym and go six days a week.  You have to exercise nearly every day, and there will be many days when it’s too rainy or cold to go outside.
  • Rewire your brain with structure and routine.  You need to make your workout routine so habitual that you don’t need to think about it. Rely on structure more than motivation.
  • Ignore the conventional advice about exercising 3-4 times a week.  Your body is made to crave the daily chemistry of exercise.
  • Change your biology from inflammation to repair.  Roughly speaking, damaged blood vessels kill you (hardening of the arteries) and exercise triggers the healing mechanism to repair wounded blood vessels.
  • You have to stress your muscles and sinews enough to trigger adaptive micro-trauma, so you’re rebuilding all the time and renewing your tissues.  You do this with a regular regimen of cardio and strength training.

“Ten times as many women die of heart disease as breast cancer.”

  • Jump start your exercise regimen.  Start slow, but hold at that level only until you get your feet under you, then push harder.  Go all in.
  • Don’t get discouraged and give up because you struggle.  The point is to show up every day and do something. You will inevitably make progress.
  • Maybe you can’t run; take up what the authors call a “healing sport,” like cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing or of course, yoga.  Something that requires intense effort but isn’t high impact.
  • “Kedging” is a neat trick that I’ve always called “throwing your hat over the fence.” Back in the day, when a sailing ship was becalmed, a light anchor called a kedge was rowed out a half mile or so ahead of the boat, and the entire crew would haul the ship to the anchor, so making forward progress.  Sign up for something, like an adventure trip or 5K that you will have to haul yourself to in order to be ready.

Strength training:

  • Strength training creates an intimate connections between your body and your brain. It brings your neural connections out of hibernation.
  • If you’re new to weights, go light, with high reps, in the beginning while you’re developing muscle memory; then go for it. You should eventually be lifting to failure.
  • Strengthening your quads is the best thing you can do to prevent bad knees. When your legs give out, you’re cooked. If you don’t keep up your bone density, you could fall and break your hip.

Financial well-being:

  • Half the women in America approach the end of life at or near poverty level.
  • Live within your means and forget how it looks to the rest of your “pack.”
  • Interesting fact: studies show that above the poverty level, there is no correlation between money and happiness.  None. So all of our spending beyond the necessities of life is in vain. Live on less and save the rest. Every dime you save today is 15 cents you don’t have to earn tomorrow.

Nutrition:

  • 95% of diets fail, so setting weight loss as your goal is setting yourself up for failure. Don’t diet, just quit eating crap, ie fast food, processed food, soda, white food (starches.)

“For those who are given to excess, abstinence is easier than moderation.” John Drybred, writer of aphorisms

  • Basically, the authors recommend a sort of cave man/Mediterranean diet.
  • If you don’t drink, don’t start. But if you do drink, don’t stop if you’re able to drink in moderation. 1-2 glasses of wine (or equivalent) is good for you, but much more than that ages you.

We are all going to get old and die.  That is the way of all flesh.  But you don’t have to spend the last ten, twenty, thirty, forty years of life as a broken down shell of your former self. That is not unavoidable.

In sum: first, you are likely to live a long, long time. Secondly, you make daily choices about how the rest of your life will go.  Will you become sedentary, and subsequently sick, useless and unable to enjoy your life? Or will you do vigorous exercise every day, eat healthy food, live within your means, and seek meaningful connections, so that you can live long and live well? It’s up to you.


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