Younger Next Year

From the team whose best-selling books and seminars have changed millions of lives—the secrets to living longer, stronger, healthier and sharper.

By Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D.

OKEYDOKE, you’re in your 50s or 60s, maybe your 70s. And you’ve done pretty well. Very well, let’s say—a good life.

But the nagging questions gnaw in the night: What’s my third act going to be like? Will I be me or some busted-down old plop? Is this gonna be any fun or just boredom laced with terror? What’s next?

It was questions like those that took me into the office of my physician, the esteemed Henry “Harry” Lodge, some years back. His solid, optimistic answers thrilled me, motivated me and changed my life. They also prompted us to write the Younger Next Year books, which are the subject of the rest of this piece.

Short version: The third act may be the best in the play. Not guaranteed, but a good chance. Do some work and you can be yourself almost all the way out to the waterfall, and have a hell of a time (my own 70s, just concluded, were the best years in a terrific life).

Best of all, it’s up to you. How long you live is 80 percent genes and 20 percent you. But how well you live is 80 percent up to you and 20 percent genes. You’re in control here. That’s nice. Very, very nice.

How nice? Try this. Do what Harry and I urge, and you can put off 70 percent of normal aging till the very end. You can actually skip 50 percent of all the major diseases and accidents, which the other kids are going to have completely. No joke. Those numbers are conservative. And your life can be major fun.

“There is a catch, perhaps?” you wisely ask. Yes, there’s a catch, but it’s not that bad.

The big one: The most important thing you can do is work out—pretty hard—six days a week, until the day you die. Got to quit eating garbage, too. And you have to care about something—other people, a cause, your god.

“Six days a week!” you shriek. “C’mon!”

C’mon, yourself! The payoff is astonishing. It’s beyond wonderful. Of course, there’s going to be some work. You thought there was gonna be a pill, for heaven’s sake? Please! Grow up. The fact is, the process is pretty good fun, itself a significant part of the good life. Read on. It’s interesting. And absolutely true.



Move Every Day

MOST OF WHAT people call aging, and most of what we all dread about getting older, is actually decay. We are stuck with real aging, but decay is optional. What do we mean? In the absence of signals to grow, your body, including your brain, decays, and you “age.” The keys to overriding the decay signals? Daily exercise, good nutrition, emotional commitment and a real engagement with living. But it starts with exercise. You have to exercise because it’s who you are, where you came from, hundreds of thousands of years ago. In the springtime on the African savanna, where humankind grew up, hunting and gathering required hours of walking, with intervals of running and sprinting in between. Exercise, then, is the single most powerful signal you can send your body that it’s spring, and time to live and grow. It isn’t complicated, but you have to do it every day.

Aerobic Training

IF THERE’S A silver bullet in this life, it’s aerobic exercise. The rule: Do 45 minutes a day, four days a week, forever. How come?

Aerobic exercise changes your blood chemistry—makes it anti-inflammatory. This is the bit of magic that reduces your risk of heart disease and some cancers by 50 percent, and Alzheimer’s disease by 40 percent. Nothing in medicine can touch that.

What to do? Bike. Jog. Swim. Hike. It doesn’t matter what you do—just do it.

Balance Training

BALANCE, coordination and proprioception (your sense of where you are in space) are all run by your brain’s signaling system. The brain has 100 billion neurons, or signal senders, each with connections to 10,000 other neurons. And one of your brain’s big jobs is dictating—in exquisite detail—how you move.

But there’s a problem: Everything you don’t use rots! Especially the signaling system that governs the body’s fine motor movements. Which means, of course, that your balance and coordination go to hell and you don’t know where you are. Sounds like the very definition of old age, doesn’t it?


1. Hip Circles

Why bother? Moving in three dimensions is an excellent way to maintain flexibility in your hips.

  • Step 1 On all fours, lift one leg out to the side, then back, up, and down in a circular-style motion. Do 10 clockwise on one side, then 10 counterclockwise. Keep your lower back still. As your mobility improves, increase the size of your circles.
  • Step 2 Repeat on the other side.

2. Overhead Reach (Dry Backstroke)

Why bother? This one is outstanding for mid-back and shoulder mobility.

  • Step 1 Lie on your back with one leg bent. Reach over your head with your right arm, as if doing the backstroke. Return the arm to your side.
  • Step 2 Alternate between the right and left, 10 times each.

Strength Training

IF IT’S AEROBICS that keeps you alive and moving, it’s strength training that offers you quality of life. The rule: Strength train two days a week. For the rest of your life. Normal aging is grim. It means losing 10 percent of your muscle mass every decade after age 40. Ditto bone mass. At 60, you can’t get out of a deep chair. Or the tub. Your joints hurt. So do your back, your hips, your knees. You fall down and break a hip. You’re a boring old wreck. That’s normal aging.

But do serious strength training two days a week and you’ll have little muscle loss and much less bone loss. You don’t need machines. Use free weights, elastic bands, your own body. Worry like crazy about posture: Lousy posture is the mother of bad hips. Which are the mother of bad backs. Get a decent exercise book or video. Doing strength training wrong is worse than not doing it at all.


1. The Squat

Why bother? It’s superb exercise for strengthening your core and the big muscles of your legs.

  • Step 1 With your core tightened and your back straight, drop your butt back and down until it almost touches the chair. Hinge from the hips.
  • Step 2 Return to standing. Repeat.

2. Split Squat

Why bother? This is great for hip stability.

  • Step 1 Stand with one foot about 18 inches ahead of the other.
  • Step 2 Lower your butt until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Rise, and repeat on other side.

3. Rotation With a Medicine Ball

Why bother? It boosts your arm strength.

  • Step 1 Engage your abs. Begin in a squat position, swinging the ball to the right.
  • Step 2 Swing the ball to the left and over your shoulder. Repeat.

4. Side Plank

Why bother? This enhances lateral hip and core stability.

  • Step 1 Lie on your side, up on one elbow, with your opposite hand on your hip. Lift your hips and knees.
  • Step 2 Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat.

5. Crunch

Why bother? It builds abs.

  • Step 1 Lie on your back with one or both knees bent. Contract your abs and use them to lift your shoulders slightly off the floor.
  • Step 2 Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat.



Don’t Eat Dead Food!

AS A NATION, we’re a bit fat. OK, more than a bit. After age 50, it doesn’t get any easier. How come? We eat too much. For over 30 years, we have been trained to eat 20 percent more. And now we are almost 20 percent overweight. Bingo! We’re apt to move less. So we don’t burn as many calories. Half or more of what we eat is “dead” food. Dead food has no nutrients. We call it dead because refining takes out almost all of its vitamins, minerals and fiber. It’s super-tasty, super-digestible and you can eat a mountain of it without feeling full. But it’s dead, and it’s making us sick and fat. How? Stored body fat causes inflammation, the prime source of strokes, cancers, diabetes—all the bad boys. Plus, it makes you look funny and feel bad about yourself. Makes you old.

An Eating Strategy For Life

Build the perfect plate
Your plate should be 50 percent vegetables and fruit, 25 percent whole grains, and 25 percent meat, poultry or fish. Go light on butter, milk, cheese.
Quit the Clean-Plate Club
Your sainted mother was wrong: It’s not good to clean your plate. Your plate has gotten crazy full in recent years. Try this: When you go out to eat, push half the food to one side and bring it home.
Skip solid fats
Set your mind against saturated fat (it’s solid, like butter and the fat in beef). Use olive oil, not butter. You don’t have a choice about the tons of fat in processed foods. So don’t eat processed foods. Also, shun fast-food joints, the temples of fat.
Limit your booze intake
The good news: If you can handle it, having one or two glasses of wine a night is fine. Having 17 is not.
Don’t drink your calories
Sugar-laden colas, milkshakes and sports drinks are awash in calories, but they don’t make you feel full. Whatever else you do, quit drinking your calories.
Swap whole grains for refined grains
Have brown rice instead of white. Try quinoa. Or farro. Use whole wheat instead of white wheat. And don’t worry about gluten unless you have celiac disease.



Fire Up Your Limbic Brain

THE LIMBIC BRAIN is the part of the brain that runs our emotions, and in many ways it’s the most important brain component we have. Complex emotions from the limbic brain are one reason mammals dominate the earth and reptiles don’t. The reptilian brain (the purely physical brain) has control centers for fear and aggression; it runs on negative reinforcement. The limbic brain (the emotional brain) invented love, joy and play in mammals. It lets us love our young and work in groups. A third part of the brain (the neocortical, or thinking, brain) speaks the language of thought, words and problem solving.

These three aspects of the brain are intricately wired together, but careful research has shown that most of the time our emotions are in the lead. Emotion is stronger than thought. We are social and emotional creatures from start to finish. So staying emotionally connected turns out to be a biological imperative, a critical part of the good life—and a real challenge as we age.

The good news is that you can foster positive emotions by consciously creating positive environments, driving away stress and loneliness, and reaching out to others.

Your reptilian, physical brain and your limbic, emotional brain have a 100 million–year head start on working together. Your thinking brain will never catch them. Embrace that fact, and work hard to nourish each one of them. Connect, commit and care!

7 Ways to Nurture Your Inner Life

If you have a family, hold on to it
Divorce is astonishingly common in the third act. You’re looking hard at old Fred and you think, You know, he wasn’t that amazing 30 years ago. Now he’s leaking testosterone and telling me how to cook. I think I’ll just push him out of the boat. Or, if you are old Fred, you look at your spouse and think, My God, she’s an old woman. And you marry young Susie Q…and live in real misery for a while.
Do what you must. But think about this: The third act can be absolutely terrific. There are going to be some hard thumps, too. Maybe a touch of death at the end. And that may be easier if you’re with someone who knows you pretty well. Do what you must, but hanging on to family should be your default.
Find like-minded folks and move in
If you live in a satisfying community, deepen your ties. Nuzzle your way in, like a puppy into the scrum. It’ll keep you warm. If you don’t have a satisfying one, move.
Do not scorn “retirement communities.” Some of them are fabulous. In whatever community, give of yourself to make it warmer, closer. It’s like making love: Done right, you get back just what you give.
Get some damn job
It can be argued that we are all sled dogs and are happier when we pull a little. Even a crappy job is a limbic stew. Jump in.
Get over yourself
If you were Mr. or Ms. Wonderful before, good for you. Now, though, you want to work only part time, and you can’t get the CEO job anyhow. That’s OK. You no longer have to prove anything. Now it’s a matter of being involved, being of use. Using your gifts.
Use different gifts
Finding and using gifts you’ve been nurturing along the side may be the very definition of happiness. So write that book. Make furniture. Be a ski bum. But default to things that put you in touch with others.
Get a fine dog
Any loving mutt will do. The love you give will come back to you doubled, almost guaranteed. That is better than some marriages. Not mine, you know, but some.
Last, make new friends
In the third act, people leave. Many of them die, if you can imagine. Others move to Colorado or Florida. Whatever. Tip: Have a conscious program of making new friends. It can make a huge difference, later especially. Dogs or new pals, remember the basic rule: We’re mammals. Snuggle up.

Adapted from the Younger Next Year series of books, © Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D., and © Chris Crowley and Jennifer Sacheck, used by permission of Workman Publishing Co. Inc. All rights reserved. For more information, go to