Bicycling, a healing sport that can make you younger

Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge (New York: Workman Publishing, 2007; first published 2004)

Crowley-LodgeAlthough Younger Next Year has been on the market for nearly a decade, I had not been aware of the book until some sixty-year-old bike club members called it to my attention earlier this summer. Having now read this constructive and entertaining book, I agree with their assessment. This 300-page manual on how to live a good life has much to offer cyclists as they move into the next third of their lives.

When they wrote the book, Chris Crowley, the principal author, was a retired lawyer in his early 70s and Henry S. Lodge, M.D., (Harry) was a somewhat younger physician still in active practice. Each author writes under his own name. Lodge provides the medical information and proposes the seven rules for living a healthy life through one’s 70s and into the later years of life. Crowley explains these laws, proposes ways of incorporating them into everyday life, and does his best to motivate readers.

The target audience is clear: men in their fifties and early sixties who are nearing retirement. Crowley identifies with these people because he was just like them a few years earlier: in reasonably good health but overweight and not very active physically; overstressed by work and by anxieties because of the life changes that retirement would inevitably bring.

That’s when he met Lodge, who became his physician and encouraged him to create a new life by following the seven rules that Lodge was developing.

The bike club members told me that there is a version of the book written for women. Although I have not seen this volume, the reviews online indicate that the authors have reworked the book to address the concerns of women.

Both versions state that most readers will be able to turn back their biological clocks for the next five years and continue living with that new-found energy and health for a decade or more, into their 80s and perhaps beyond.

The first three rules are interrelated: “(1) Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life. (2) Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life. (3) Do serious strength training with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life” (p. 305).

In his discussion of these rules, Crowley contrasts two kinds of sports. “Some sports, like tennis, pull you apart because they’re centrifugal. Others, like running, beat on your joints remorselessly. But a few actually knit you together. Your muscles and especially your joints feel better when you’re done than when you began” (p. 90). Which sports are healing? He names biking, swimming, cross-country skiing, and rowing.

At this point in the narrative, one of it distinctive themes is used to explain why exercise of the right kind is so important. In a chapter entitled “The Biology of Exercise,” Lodge explains “the chemistry of movement” which human beings share with “every other animal on the planet” (p. 97).

He describes the evolution of our bodies based on the need to find food for every day by the hard work of hunting and gathering. Part of this biology was the need to exist during periods when food could not be found. When we understand this history of the human body, we can see why exercise every day is necessary in order to stay “lean, fit, happy, optimistic, energetic, brimming with vim and vigor” (p. 37). Even if you find Lodge’s argument a little fanciful, as I do, he provides a way to understand why his exercise rules work such wonders.

Rule 5 is also particularly interesting to cyclists: “Quit eating crap!” (p. 305). The emphasis is upon eating healthy food and avoiding much of the fat- and sugar-crammed stuff that passes for food in the American diet. The authors presume that if people exercise and eat according to their prescriptions they will lose weight, but weight reduction is not put forward as an objective.

The other three rules are pertinent to the larger goal of the authors, which is to help people live a healthier and more satisfying life through the last third of their lives: “(4) Spend less than you make. (6) Care. (7) Connect and commit” (p. 305).

I like the rules, especially those that deal with exercise and diet. The explanations and motivational encouragement are constructive and generally persuasive. Half-way through, however, I wearied of the book’s artificially clever prose and found myself skipping much of the detail while still trying to get the main points.

Despite my impatience with the fulsome exposition (especially Crowley’s), I have benefited from their enthusiastic, intelligent discussion. Gladly I recommend it to everyone who wants to turn back their biological clock.

4 Responses to Bicycling, a healing sport that can make you younger

  1. Gene Hill says:

    Excellent! Thanks, Keith!

  2. Joe Culpepper says:

    Thanks for an interesting review. I especially liked the distinction between centrifugal, impact, & healing sports. I often find myself in conversation with people about exercise & my cycling & many who have jogged or played tennis now have knee & hip problems. Cycling however, with its more fluid motion, & swimming do not do the same kind of damage & in fact have a healing, knitting together effect, as you point out. I’m in MI this weekend to officiate at a wedding for a couple we met in OR on the TransAm last summer! I am about to take a bike ride with them today, & we will also hike
    some. Fun! Whether you are 25, 63, or 80, cycling is a great healthy & healing sport!

    • Joe, thank you for the confirmation of the ideas about cycling. I am impressed by the 40-mile rides you’re doing this summer. They make my 100 miles per week seem inadequate (which, in fact, they are). I hope to do a ride to Multnomah Falls tomorrow, which would make for a really strong and interesting day on the bike. I’d never thought of cross country bike rides as a way to solicit business for my wedding ministry.

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