Sunday, November 22, 2015

Younger Next Year for Women by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, MD, reviewed by Karen MacDougall

Workman Publishing, 2005, 352 pages. Available from, $29.99 for hardcover, $9.99 for Kindle, here.

If you want to read one book that can radically change your outlook on life and aging, Younger Next Year for Women or the original Younger Next Year are your choices! 
Very easy to read and entertaining, both books start with the message that the face of aging we see today, with its litany of aches, pains, broken bones, walkers, medication side effects and mental deterioration is not the de facto blueprint for aging, and the books help put into perspective the fact that modern medicines are increasing longevity but that no one thought to tell us how to live healthy lives into our 70s, 80s and 90s.

In fact, the lives we life in the first world are intrinsically unhealthy, the impacts of which we start to see as early as our 40s and which get exacerbated as we age. So it was a refreshing and reassuring revelation to know that we can choose another option, that my mother’s advice “not too get old,” is in fact an option that I can choose, if I’m prepared to work at it.

The main message of Younger Next Year for Women is that we have to keep moving, that motion is what keeps the human body in prime working condition for as long as we keep moving. You stop moving, you begin to decay. That simple. We drive everywhere, many of us sit at desks or on couches for far too much of our lives and we eat to please ourselves as opposed to optimally fueling the machine that is our body.

The book also highlights the importance of connectivity with humanity, that this is one of the things that sets mammals apart, the importance of the pack. It is a message we seem to lose as we age, allowing ourselves to be marginalized, to think that we don’t matter anymore, have nothing left to contribute to society, so we withdraw … to our detriment.   

The book’s strength is the science behind it, it being much easier to accept and comply with a recommendation if you understand the reasoning behind the suggestions. 

The author, Chris Crawley, has an enthusiasm for healthy aging that’s also compelling, especially as he is living proof that you can turn things around at any age and that it’s never too late to start. You just need the motivation and the message that it can be done, that it will make a difference and this book provides just that.

The book is not without its weaknesses, however. Just over half the book, 200 pages, focuses on exercise, the next 83 pages are a mishmash of lifestyle and nutrition advice, with only 42 of those pages specific to nutrition and then about 70 pages to end on the importance of maintaining a purpose in life and of connectivity to the pack. 

I know the authors are well aware of this imbalance and that it reflects their viewpoint, particularly that of Chris Crowley’s, that exercise is the corner stone of their blueprint to healthy aging. But I would say that all three factors, exercise, nutrition and emotional connectivity, are equally important, and to send a message that one is heavily more important than the others is warping the message of healthy aging. 

This book could have been made a lot stronger by editing out more of the anecdotal pieces and increasing the section on nutrition (not diet, but nutrition!). They also missed out an important link to remaining connected in the last section, that of hearing loss and its correlation to increased isolation from the pack often leading to depression.

Some critics have complained the Crowley’s language is often clumsy; others are put off by the born-again tone. While I wasn’t a fan of this myself, the overall message is powerful enough to overcome any shortcomings.  And Crowley does acknowledge his weaknesses (no one is perfect), comparing himself to a Labrador puppy; i.e. a young soul. Nothing wrong with that. It takes all types, and he has taken the time and effort to disseminate a message of hope that is greatly missing in our society.

All in all, I recommend this book to all and sundry as pertinent to anyone who has reached the crest of the hill at 50 and would like to stay on top the plateau for as long as possible. But I would also recommend it to people in their 40s, as a lot of the rot starts to set in during that decade and habits get harder to change the older we get. We are never too young or too old to start living healthier lives. 

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Karen MacDougall is a writer of historical fiction, with one novel completed and a second which is currently a work in progress. She has seen her work grow by leaps and bounds after networking made her aware of Brian’s classes and workshops. 

See Brian’s full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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