Working at getting younger

I was hiking mid-day Monday at Umstead. It was cool, rainy — not many people out. I looked up the trail and saw headed my way a familiar figure, familiar because of his trademark desert camo pants and because of the saw and loppers in tow.

“We’ve gotta stop meeting like this,” Joe said. The last time I’d run into Joe Lugiano was in the fall, on this same trail, wearing the same pants, carrying the same trail maintenance tools. Joe directs the volunteer group at Umstead, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see him, either working solo as he was Tuesday or with one or two of his fellow volunteers.

We briefly caught up, then Joe mentioned a book he was reading, “Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit and Sexy — Until You’re 80 and Beyond,” by Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry S. Lodge. It’s a book, Joe told me, about how ignoring chronological aging and plowing through with a rigorous exercise routine can make you feel like you’re 50 well into your 80s. It’s a book Joe could have written.

Joe is 66 chronologically, in his mid-40s physically and mentally. When he was in his chronological 40s, he ran for IBM’s corporate track team and could run a mile in four and a half minutes. He now runs ultra distance races of 100 miles or more. Like me, his motivation to move came in part from lousy genes and a history of male family members with heart problems. The book grabbed his attention because it offered confirmation of what he already knew: Regular rigorous exercise and good diet can make you feel years younger than the calendar — and society — would suggest.

“ ... the biggest challenge for most people — is exercise,” says co-author Lodge, an M.D. “It is the secret to great health. You should exercise hard almost every day of your life — say six days a week. And do strength training. Lift weights, two of those six days. Exercise is the great key to aging.”

The general wisdom over the past couple of decades has been that you need 30 minutes of exercise a day. That’s a minimum for decent health. “Younger Next Year” says you need to step that commitment up if you want to live a truly vigorous, joyful life deep into your 80s (or 90s). It also proclaims that a gradual decline is not inevitable. That you can live a full life until the end.

I’ll share more from “Younger” over the next few days.

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