Ladies of a certain age, listen up. Life isn’t over yet. Authors Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, MD have a powerful message for older women. We don’t have to morph into pathetic old ladies who shrink, get tired, sick, fat, and accident-prone. The worst things turn out to be voluntary — about 70% voluntary, says Crowley. There’s no rule forcing you to feel old and to act old. Instead, why not make the last third of your life a really terrific experience?
The secret of staying younger than your chronological age is to change the signals you give to your body. There are two basic types of signals, the signal to grow and the signal to decay. Both types of signals get transmitted through the nervous and circulatory systems. And both types of signals have the potential to change your body, your brain, and your emotional outlook.
Decay is the default signal, which means it’s the message that automatically takes over without any conscious effort or thought, whereas the signal to grow has to be deliberately stimulated. This stimulation is achieved in three ways: through exercise, nutrition, and caring about someone or something. The authors claim that the physical messages you send by being consciously and steadily active, and the emotional messages you send by being engaged in the great hunt of life, can override the default message.
While three signal-changing tools are recommended, by far the biggest emphasis is on exercise. This is not the woosie kind of exercise you half-heartedly do once every great while. Serious, big-sweat exercise is what’s called for. To get the life-saving and life-enhancing effects of exercise, you must join a gym and you must exercise six days a week for the rest of your life… until you die. It’s your most important job. Both aerobic and strength training are prescribed. Aerobic exercise saves your life; strength training makes it worth living. To make exercise more interesting and fun, Crowley and Lodge introduce the reader to the concept of kedging, which is using a big goal to do something out of the ordinary, like using a yoga retreat or an adventure vacation as a reason to train harder.
As for eating, the co-authors have just two things to say: quit eating crap and don’t you lose a goddamn pound. Because women are bombarded with ultra-thin cultural conditioning from the very moment they exit the womb, the direction to stop focusing on body weight might be a bit easier for men to embrace than women. Also, since it’s been proven that eating has a bigger impact on body weight than exercise (unless you’re prepared to really exercise your brains out), I personally would have appreciated more direction than to just rely on common sense and eat healthy. Cut back on fast foods. Get the white stuff out of your diet. Eat your veggies. Read food labels. Pass on the starches. Stuff like that. That said, given the state of our national girth, everyone can use reminding about what constitutes good nutrition and that it starts in the grocery store.
The guys even talk about the dreaded m-word, menopause. Menopause kicks off the tide of decay like a hurricane, and exercise is still the best therapeutic treatment for moderating side effects and for compensating for the loss in estrogen production. They also venture into sex. Did you know, for example, that your sex life has a direct relationship to your longevity? Men who have the most sex live the longest and women who have the best sex live the longest. The only predictor of an active sex life as you age is an active sex life in your 40s and 50s; if you can climb a flight of stairs, you can have sex. Crowley talks about how more and more women are finding ways to sexually express themselves as they age.
At the time the book was written, Lodge was a 47-year-old MD and Crowley was a hip, hot 71-year-old. They’re both informed and persuasive, but it’s Crowley who sets your heart on fire with his relentlessly cheerful and optimistic tell-it-like-it-is writing style. I confess to falling in love with him while I was reading the book. The power to inspire the reader to act may seem like no big deal, but you’ll just have to believe me (the reader of hundreds of fitness and nutrition books) when I tell you that it’s an extremely rare and exciting commodity. This is why I’m so keen on bringing this helpful and hopeful book to your attention. Even though it came out a few years ago, the message is still fresh, still relevant, and it still makes you happy to read it.
The bottom line: Never, ever give up on yourself, no matter how many candles are on your birthday cake. If you’re new to exercise, you’ll get the big kick in the pants you need to get started. And if, like me, you’re already a disciple of exercise, you’ll get charged to kick your workout routine up a notch and keep yourself going.