Make the Choice Not to Decay

It’s that time of year — time to weed out all the stuff in the Brokamp household to get ready for the first yard sale of the season. It’s a great way to de-clutter, make a few hundred bucks, and sadly realize how many of the past Christmas’ presents are already collecting dust from non-use.

While culling the bookshelves, I came across Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond, which came out in early 2005. While I was still in my 30s when it came out, it was one of the first books that got me thinking about how I need to start taking better care of myself. After all, if I’m going to spend decades saving for retirement, I want to be healthy enough to enjoy retirement once I get there.

Unfortunately, as we age, we accumulate some aches and pains, don’t have the energy we used to, and eventually rely on Lipitor, Celebrex, or some other drug that sounds like the villain in a science-fiction movie. Well, that’s just part of getting older.

Or is it? Not according to Henry Lodge and Chris Crowley, the authors of Younger Next Year. According to them, 50% of illnesses associated with aging (e.g., heart attacks, diabetes) can be eliminated, and 70% of “normal” aging (weakness, sore joints, apathy — the stuff that makes you feel old) is not aging at all, but really decay. And it’s optional.

When the book was written, Lodge was a 46-year-old doctor and faculty member at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Crowley was his 70-year-old patient, a former Wall Street lawyer who retired in 1990. Although Crowley exercised occasionally, he was 40 pounds overweight and feeling adrift when he became Lodge’s patient. Lodge explained to Crowley how Americans get good medical care (they receive treatment after something’s gone wrong) but not good health care (help with leading a lifestyle that will ward off disease and degeneration).

Younger Next Year describes that lifestyle, summarized by “Harry’s Rules.” Follow them, the authors say, and you’ll turn back your biological clock — “become functionally younger every year for the next decade.” From the book:

Harry’s Rules

  1. Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life. Don’t think of it as exercise. Think of it as sending a constant ‘grow’ message…as telling your body to get stronger, more limber, functionally younger, in the only language your body understands. Do it because it’s the only thing that works.
  2. Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life. Hard aerobics, working up a good sweat, is our favorite exercise rhythm because [it] brings out our youngest and best biology: strong, fast, energetic, and optimistic all day long. Tell your body it’s springtime.
  3. Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life. Generally, we aren’t aware of nerve decay as we get older, but it’s the main reason our joints wear out, our muscles get sloppy, and our ability to be physically alert and powerful begins to fade. And it is reversible with strength training.
  4. Spend less than you make. Time to quit playing and come inside. Come inside your income. Try to do it early. As with smoking, you can recover. It takes time and earlier is better, but do it.
  5. Quit eating crap! Never go on a diet again. The only way to lose weight is to embark on a program of steady, vigorous exercise, avoiding the worst foods (french fries, almost all fast food, processed snacks with names that end with the letter “O”), and eating less of everything.
  6. Care. There have to be people and causes you care about. Doesn’t seem to matter much what the causes are. They don’t have to be important to society or make money, as long as they’re important to you.
  7. Connect and commit. There is a terrible temptation, in our 60s and 70s, to close up shop and narrow our lives. In most cases, retirement already does that, and it’s tempting to just go along with the program, get narrower and narrower. Well, don’t. It’s killing us. We have to exercise our social, pack-animal gifts as vigorously as we exercise our bodies. That means adding friends, doing more stuff, getting out there, and being involved.

But this isn’t just a fitness book; it’s about getting ready for, and getting the most from, retirement. It’s written mostly for over-50 men, but anyone can benefit from the advice. (Lodge and Crowley have written a follow-up book, Younger Next Year for Women.) The authors generally alternate chapters, with the doctor providing the science behinds his seven rules, and the patient giving the real-life, rollicking, often hilarious account of what it’s like to implement them.

Here’s the theory, in a nutshell: Due to evolutionary forces, humans are programmed to be active, eat certain foods, and remain socially connected. To do otherwise is to send a signal to your body that you’re ready to give up the ghost. “Your body and brains are perfect for their natural purposes, but none of them was designed for modern life: fast food, TV, or retirement,” writes Lodge. “In a paradox that you absolutely have to understand, endless calories and lack of exercise signal your body that you’re heading into a famine that you may well not survive, and in response, your body and brain head into a low-grade form of depression.”

Follow Harry’s Rules, and you can keep growing, remain energized, and stay physically and mentally mid-life long into your twilight. “Biologically, there is no such thing as retirement, or even aging. There is only growth or decay, and your body looks to you to choose between them.”

This is one book that will not make it into the Brokamp family yard sale. However, if you’re looking for a used bunk bed, impulsively bought juicer, or men’s Superman underwear (only worn twice — my wife hates them), then stop by our yard sale in a couple of weeks.

More about...Health & Fitness, Retirement

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There are 89 comments to "Make the Choice Not to Decay".

  1. TB says 04 April 2012 at 05:33

    I can’t think of a better “ad” for staying in shape and keeping ourselves “alive”! This post was excellent. And I loved Harry’s rules because they didn’t beat around the bush. You need to exercise 6 days a week. For the rest of your life. Period.

    The “low-grade depression” part makes alot of sense too. Americans do watch more TV and eat much junk than ever before. And depressoin rates are climbing. There’s surely other things playing a role, but Harry’s rules almost certainly has something to do with it.


    • Queeb says 04 April 2012 at 09:06

      ***I know I have read that exercise is as effective or even more effective than anti-depressants. I don’t have a source to give you but I believe it. Just look at how happy kids are after they’ve been outside running around!

      • Marianne says 04 April 2012 at 11:09

        A relative that had some issues with depression was ‘prescribed’ a very specific exercise regimen such as climbing stairs (along with other stuff). They came through everything and are doing just great today but it was very interesting to see that their physicians/ counsellors prescribed exercise to get their own hormones and body working for them instead of against.

    • Maggie@SquarePennies says 04 April 2012 at 13:55

      I have to agree! Harry’s Rules rule! Everything will decay eventually, but we don’t have to go willingly! Kick back! Not as in, kick back another beer on the couch. More like kick back at the years & keep the body & brain active. I knew a woman in her late 70s who was still board sailing. Why not?

  2. SavingFreak says 04 April 2012 at 05:47

    This is a great post. One thing I would add is limiting the size of the dinners we eat and expanding the number of hours that we eat before we go to bed. That food that we tend to eat in the evening is one of the leading additions to weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle.

    • TB says 04 April 2012 at 06:11

      So true! WHen my wife and I go out to restaurants we usually divide our plates into thirds or halves and only eat a small portion. We bring the rest home, so not only are we eating a more reasonable amount, but we’re also getting “free” dinner for 2 more nights!

      • Laura says 04 April 2012 at 10:01

        As I sit here at my desk and read this, I am enjoying the very generous leftover half of my dinner purchased last night at a restaurant!

    • Elizabeth says 04 April 2012 at 06:45

      I’ve read that it’s not when we eat but how much we eat throughout the day that’s important. Some experts say the real culprit is the unhealthy foods we tend to snack on at night and the fact that these snacks aren’t factored into our daily caloric intake.

      In other words, eating a reasonable, healthy dinner at 8:00 pm isn’t going to cause weight gain.

      • El Nerdo says 04 April 2012 at 09:18

        You’re probably right, but what I’ve found happens to me when I eat late is that I stay up late too– I’ve been a night owl most of my life but now that I need to wake up at 6am every day it helps me to have an early dinner, like 7, and not too heavy. If I eat at 8 or 9 I have a hard time sleeping before midnight.

        Probably connected to this phenomenon:

        and also maybe this too:

        • Elizabeth says 04 April 2012 at 15:57

          I’m the opposite 🙂 I get hungry in the evening so a light snack helps me settle down and sleep better. It’s usually something healthy like oats though.

        • Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy says 04 April 2012 at 19:30

          Same with me. Eat late, up late, tired in the morning. I think it’s because when you eat late it revs the body’s metabolism and raises blood sugar. Since you then have glucose and insulin running around your blood stream, your body no longer thinks that it has to make the adrenaline (norepinephrine or whatever) in the morning to get you going. Also, since you become more insulin resistant at night, the glucose and insulin aren’t as effective, and you wake up feeling groggy.

          I was a night owl and became a morning person after going Paleo and eating before 6.

      • amber says 05 April 2012 at 05:44

        I am what most people would call athletic and skinny. I run a lot of miles. The point is, I can only get exercise in the schedule if I do it after work. This means I am working out between 7:30 – 8:30, eating around 9 and in bed by 10:30. Sure, I could get up at 4:30 to get my exercise in before work, but that is not me, and I have never felt any negatives from eating dinner right before bed. Actually I find it positive because I then don’t want an after dinner snack, which I often do if I eat earlier in the evening. I am also grazing all day rather than letting myself get hungry.

  3. Barbara says 04 April 2012 at 05:49

    Thank you for this wonderful post! My husband and I have been heading in this direction, but trying to put info together from a bunch of different sources. I can pretty much guarantee he’s getting this book as a gift soon, and I’ll read it as soon as he’s done!

  4. Holly says 04 April 2012 at 05:56

    IME this holds true. My grandfather is in his mid-90s. He still lives in his own home, mows his own lawn and works every day. He’s been active every day of his life, maintained strong social ties and had a purpose in life greater than himself. He got good genes, but he’s definitely made the most of them through his own hard work.

  5. Beth says 04 April 2012 at 06:06

    Love the rules! I’m only 32 but I feel so much better since I’ve lost 100 pounds and workout daily! You have to take care of the one body you’re given.

    • Betsy says 04 April 2012 at 08:19

      How did you do it? I really want to know!

    • Doug P. says 04 April 2012 at 14:58

      Congrats on the weight loss. I too would love to know how you did it.

    • bon says 04 April 2012 at 18:03

      I’ve not accomplished anything close to what Beth has done, but I’m on my way to having lost 30 lbs since October.

      I really recommend the program that I’m on – the name sounds really lame, but it is Michelle Bridges 12 week body transformation, It fits Harry’s Rules 100% and is a good way to ease yourself into 6 days/week exercise. It also demonstrates how to do a lot of the strength training which non-gym rats may be intimidated by.

      Despite the name it is not gimmicky at all – simply promotes healthy, balanced eating of real food and lots of exercise. Meal plans, recipes, shopping lists, and exercise plans are provided, as well as motivational “mindset” advice. I’ve never been happier in my own skin or felt more confident that I’m living a healthy lifestyle. (I feel obligated to say I have no connection w/ this program other than being a very happy participant) If you’re interested check out the facebook page, I think it gives more flavor of the program than the actual website.

      • Meredith says 05 April 2012 at 08:46

        I am in the middle of Jillian Michaels Body Revolution program – it is a set of specific DVDs and a diet that is high in veggies and lean protein, low on sugars and carbs. You workout 30 minutes 6 days a week. So far I love it! It cost $130 for the program and I now get up at 6am and do the workout. I have a full time job and a 7 yo and a 3 yo. Once you make a commitment to do 30 minutes of exercise/6 days a week you CAN find the time to do it and after a while it become just part of your routine.

    • PawPrint says 04 April 2012 at 18:15

      Congrats on the weight loss! I, too, lost 100 lbs., almost six years ago. It’s amazing how much better you feel, isn’t it?

    • MARIA says 05 April 2012 at 05:06

      Great Job on the weight loss.
      I have lost 62 and will need to lose a total of about 110 to be ideal. Can’t wait to join the 100 club. I’m doing it on Weight Watchers and exercising at home and in a gym …about 2 pounds a week.
      My daughter’s upcoming wedding got me started, however I have not felt this good in years and will never go back!!

    • Beth says 05 April 2012 at 06:08

      Thanks, folks. I basically move more and eat less. 36 months later, I’m 105 pounds lighter. I go to the gym five mornings a week (some cardio everyday, weights 3/week) and I try to do an outdoor activity on Saturdays. I rest on Sunday. Last Saturday, I rode my bike 42.5 miles. In three Saturdays, I’ll be running a half marathon.

      As far as diet, I cut calories the first sixty or seventy pounds. Then, I hit a plateau. I’ve been doing low carb for the past six months and I’ve lost an additional 30+ pounds. I know a lot of folks have trouble sticking to low carb but I do not, I feel a lot better on it.

  6. Elizabeth says 04 April 2012 at 06:08

    Great post! While our genes certainly play a large role when it comes to health and aging, I think too many people think aging/decay is inevitable and don’t bother trying to fight back — or they would rather fight back with pills than with healthful habits.

    I was surprised the author didn’t mention stress — our bodies are programmed for “fight or flight”, not for the constant daily stress many of us face. However, eating well, regular exercise, caring about others and staying connected all help reduce stress, so I guess it’s a moot point 🙂

  7. Ben says 04 April 2012 at 06:11

    I’m sorry but very few people today have time to properly exercise as per Harry’s rules 6 days per week. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to hold down a career, raise a family, eat right, get enough sleep, take care of all the other “stuff” that life throws your way, AND exercise that much. 2-3 days a week, okay, but 6?

    • Betsy says 04 April 2012 at 08:21

      We need to get some pro-worker laws in place so we can have our lives back and work less.

      • Brenton says 04 April 2012 at 09:20

        No. We dont need “pro-worker” laws mandating how many hours we work… We just need to stop obsessing with work, letting goog enough be good enough, and understanding that you are the only one who can make you stay late, work weekends, etc…

        If work eats up all your time, its YOUR fault.

        • Betsy says 04 April 2012 at 12:20

          Really. Thanks for your judgment on me.

          I am required to work a certain number of hours per week above the norm, but I don’t get overtime.

        • Joanna says 04 April 2012 at 12:44

          You’re required to die and pay taxes, everything else is a choice.

          Why does family time have to be separate from exercise time? Exercise WITH your family, instill good habits when they’re young. Play soccer with tiny kids, run with kids over 5-6 years old. Swim with them. There are so many options. They need to get out from in front of the television as much as you do, if not more.

        • El Nerdo says 04 April 2012 at 13:03

          If your working conditions are undesirable you have the option to find a better or maybe just a different job. It’s not slavery, nobody is keeping you there but yourself. Employers have to compete for good workers just like workers compete for good jobs.

          From my own personal observation, which should of course not be the basis for a sweeping generalization, the economy is not as bad as it was the past 3 years. I’m just starting to see more money moving around, not just clients but colleagues and competitors. The recovery is here, maybe not as quick as we’d like, but I can see it happening.

          So if employers make unreasonable demands they are going to start having a lot of turnover, which will eventually hurt productivity more than cutting unpaid overtime, and they will have to make a choice (like we all do).

          You might want to consider going on a little job hunt if you’re unhappy; even if you end up staying put, that gives you leverage to negotiate for better conditions. Or maybe you can find a job where the pressure to compete isn’t as high because you’re not surrounded by workaholics, even if the pay might not be as good.

          My current clients are a small business and they are out of the office at 5:01 pm, and they are doing very well. I on the other hand often work 12 hour shifts–by choice, of course– and I still struggle at times.

      • MARIA says 05 April 2012 at 05:18

        NO more laws!!
        You may be required to work overtime without pay at your current employer, however it is your choice to find a better suited employer/ career that allows you normal freedoms.

    • DB says 04 April 2012 at 09:05

      I run (literally) with a very pro-fitness crowd (most of us are married with kids), and we find all kinds of ways to squeeze in lots of workouts during the week. For those with standard commutes – a few friends bike to work whenever possible, one runs early or during lunch, one gets up early to do High Intensity Interval Training (doesn’t take much time, does deliver a huge benefit), etc. I work from home and so have the flexibility to alternate running and core work – but it still does take getting up early and planning. It’s all a challenge but so worth it.

    • Brian says 04 April 2012 at 09:24

      Excuses, Ben. I bet you can tell me what happened on American Idol last time.

      • El Nerdo says 04 April 2012 at 11:02

        Can’t blame TV either. I used to watch TV while on a treadmill, but yikes, it wasn’t such soul-sucking garbage as American Idol, it was old Star Trek reruns–inspiring! TO BOLDLY GO… nowhere, on this rickety exercise machine!

        Stationary bikes are great for TV watchers too. You can put a card in the spokes and watch Sons of Anarchy! 😛

        • MARIA says 05 April 2012 at 05:27

          So true,
          I watch Rachel Ray ( or other foodish shows) on the treadmill TV at the Gym after work. Makes the time go by faster on the treadmill and I get lots of ideas for quick and healthy dinners for when I am finished.Win Win
          It’s all about priorities. Like I said above I have lost 60+ pounds and on my way to 100+.
          I have the same job, the same long commute, same household chores ( we live on 10 acres and have a very large garden that requires care)shop, prepare meals etc. I guess what I am trying to say is that I could not cut anything out of my life when I added an hour at WW Meetings every week and 45 min at the gym 4x week.I just had to make it a priority and reorganize. I’ve never felt better

        • EMH says 05 April 2012 at 07:29

          The TV is what motivates me to go to the gym! I work out on the elliptical, bike, or treadmill for one episode of Real Housewives (my guilty pleasure) and while my brain rots, my body gets stronger. Plus, those ladies make me so mad that I discover I work out harder.

    • CA says 04 April 2012 at 13:20

      I’m just one person, but I do think 6 days/week is very reasonable for most people. My wife and I train all year round for marathons and Ironman triathlons. For most of the year, each week has about 12 workouts for about 15 hours. During the few month prior to Ironman, each week will include about 15 workouts for about 20 hours. I also put in about 50 hours a week at work and manage to watch way too much TV. For us, it comes down to creative scheduling and will power. It sucks going for a 10 mile run after working 10 hours or swimming in the dark at 5:30 am, but you grind through it.

      • olga says 04 April 2012 at 15:31

        Ditto. My husband and I train for ultra-marathons year-around and hold jobs, have family with kids, house to fix, cook at home and do watch TV (American idol including, thank God recorded). Schedules.

      • olga says 04 April 2012 at 15:36


    • Steve says 04 April 2012 at 13:24

      We all get the same number of hours per day. It’s up to us what we choose to do with those hours.

    • PawPrint says 04 April 2012 at 18:20

      Exercise really doesn’t have to be “formal” exercise. If you have stairs at work, climb them as much as you can. Walk during lunch. Park your car at the end of the parking lot. Do squats at your desk. Lift stuff. Take your kids to the park and run around. Actually, I think there are books or websites that show you things you can do throughout your day if you don’t have a chunk of time for exercise.

    • Kimberly says 05 April 2012 at 14:25

      I have found that reducing the number of tv shows has put a lot of extra time in my schedule that now allows me to workout. Also, start with something like an at-home DVD workout. Some are 30 minutes long that will incorporate both strength and cardio. I like Jillian Michael’s 30 day shred program. By cutting out just one half hour tv show, you can now fit in exercise.

      The other thing is that since I started exercising and eating better (not great, just better), just recently mind you, that I have slept better and actually require less sleep than I did before. There’s a half hour right for exercise right there.

  8. Angela says 04 April 2012 at 06:26

    Please do not sell worn underwear. Some things are just a loss.

    • Lis says 05 April 2012 at 13:49

      I just laughed out loud so hard I woke up my dog! Thanks!

  9. John | Married (with Debt) says 04 April 2012 at 06:39

    This is some really good advice, especially “never go on a diet again.” If you eat right, then diets aren’t necessary.

    I have only recently started taking care of myself physically at the age of 30 (wait…does that sound weird?)

    • Barbara says 04 April 2012 at 07:41

      Not at all – you do it when you can do it! It took me until my 40’s to finally get into the daily flossing regimen. My dentist is happy, and I’m healthier. 🙂

  10. Anthony @ Each Peso Counts says 04 April 2012 at 07:01

    This is an amazing list! Best part about it is the part where the idea of doing the “right” things your entire life. Daunting at the same time unbelievable. Not that the info is wrong or misleading. But these acts sure need a whole lof DISCIPLINE, even next to impossible. For me. And i have a feeling i might be very wrong.


  11. Amy says 04 April 2012 at 07:02

    I think it’s also important to address your emotional health as well as your physical health. What messages and beliefs are you telling yourself that might interfere with your health? How do you handle stress? I believe that if you don’t manage your emotional health it can contribute to problems with your physical health.

    • bon says 04 April 2012 at 18:08

      so true! Not until I worked through this have I been able to take control of my physical health

  12. valleycat1 says 04 April 2012 at 07:12

    We prefer to live an active lifestyle and some of our hobbies are active (hiking, skiing, cycling, swimming, gardening) rather than making exercise another chore to check off. And that will be even more possible once we’re retired and not working 9-5. I find raking leaves (not air blowing) and shoveling dirt much more effective than crunches, for example.

    Years ago there was a saying that regular exercise throughout your adult years will add around 2 years to your life, but you would also have spent the equivalent of 2 years just exercising.

    • Betsy says 04 April 2012 at 08:24

      I’m with you. I’m always stunned when people drive to the gym to walk or run on a treadmill; pay to have their leaves blown so they can use the time to work out; etc. Amazing … and deeply weird.

      I was jogging one deliciously cool and sunny spring morning and I saw a woman on a treadmill inside a gym. Just … weird.

      • tamarind says 04 April 2012 at 09:17

        I think it’s best to do whatever motivates you to move.

        As an allergy sufferer, I am not able to exercise outside to the same level as inside for about 2/3 of the year so it doesn’t seem weird to me.

        Also, I find that the exercise I get while outside tends to be more low-key–I enjoy it, but there’s something about the tedium of the gym that encourages me to work out more intensely. Then I can enjoy outside and not think of it as a key source of exercise, rather for a pleasant walk, yard work etc.

      • Barb says 04 April 2012 at 10:57

        Depends on the person. Long as they are exercising, really-who cares. I have an injured knee. I will never walk (except as a tourist and around the yard) and certainly not run. So yes, I drive to the gym and take an exercise class. Many people with allergies cannot exercise much of the year.

      • Patricia Cross says 04 April 2012 at 11:09

        I drive to the gym to work out because they have a nursery there that will keep my two preschoolers occupied long enough for me to actually focus on my form so I can do my exercises properly and not hurt myself again. When my kids are older, we’ll do more active stuff as a family but right now going for a walk is a trial of patience as the 2 year old investigates EVERYTHING along the way. It’s certainly not a cardiovascular workout.

      • cathleen says 04 April 2012 at 15:10

        As a person who prefers to work out outside I still feel compelled to list numerous reasons a person (sometimes me!) prefer at times to work out in a gym

        1) it’s a work benefit with more options than home (weights, steam room, pool, etc. for more rounded workout
        2) don’t want to run on concrete, bad for hips, knees and my back (i’ve had surgery)
        3) on my way home, less likely to back out of it by getting distracted at home
        4) catch up on news (as i don’t watch TV at home)
        5) heat/cold (hair!)
        6) don’t get interrupted by neighbors on my walk/jog around the neighborhood (welcome when i’m gardening, not when i’m trying to workout 🙂

        Better to work out anywhere than nowhere!

        • Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy says 04 April 2012 at 19:38

          I agree with all of you. It’s silly to spend an hour on the stairmaster when you could have just used the stairs at work instead of the elevator. But, there are benefits to going to a gym. I like to see how other people exercise and get ideas for myself. Also, like most are saying, I don’t watch TV at home, so it’s nice to be able to catch the news. I also like to download investment podcasts and listen to them at the gym. Plus, I just like it, the way I like catching a movie (only the gym is much cheaper per visit!). It’s something I’m willing to pay for (it’s ~$12/month for me after the insurance rebate). Unnecessary expense? Perhaps, but it makes me healthier and I enjoy it every time.

      • Carla says 05 April 2012 at 00:36

        Having MS really took away my balance to the point I could no longer run or play tennis outdoors, but I’m working on that. Going to the gym where I could use a spinning bike (and not fall on my face!) and free weights in a controlled environment is the best thing I could do for my health next to diet – even more than pharmaceuticals.

        For me the choice is gym or nothing. I can walk, but its not nearly enough exercise MY body needs to stay fit and in shape. My body grew out of using light weights at home. I can leg press 400lbs, 100 lb dead lifts, etc and there is no way I could do that at home.

    • El Nerdo says 04 April 2012 at 09:23

      I hate the gym, the sweaty strangers and the bad music of it, but one of the advantages of working at home for me is that I have some weights and mats around my desk. So whenever I need to take a break from the computer I do some pushups or squats, or do reps with dumbbells, or stretch, or something like that. Also I do my daily errands (go to bank, post office, etc) either on foot or a bike. It’s not a path to superfitness, but it activates the body nevertheless.

  13. betsy22 says 04 April 2012 at 07:23

    I’ve always been active (though I’ve also always struggled with weight —sigh), but I started doing an early morning, outdoor ‘boot camp’ style exercise program about 5 years ago, in my early 30’s. I don’t go every weekday morning, but between bootcamp and my normal sports proclivities, I’ve pretty much been meeting Harry’s rules # 1-3 for ~45-50 weeks/year over the past 5 years.

    Guess what, I can already tell a difference, just in my late 30s. A lot of my college friends are already starting to complain that their bodies are changing and won’t do certain things anymore….I’m barely noticing a difference from my 20-something self.

    • DB says 04 April 2012 at 09:10

      Yes! My baby is 15 months old, and in her first year I lost the 30 lbs from pregnancy and ran my 4th marathon when she was 11 months old. It took marathon training to lose the last few pregnancy lbs – I found that exercise tells the body to rev up the metabolism, which is awesome. I actually still weigh the same that I did in high school (I’m 32 now) – but I’m in way better shape!

  14. Jason Cabler (@DrCabler) says 04 April 2012 at 07:26

    Great article! I used to think I wanted to retire, but after seeing so many of my patients start to “decay” as soon as they retired, I’ve decided that I want to continue working and staying active as long as possible.

    In my older years I’ll be working by choice instead of out of need.

  15. T-Lou says 04 April 2012 at 07:46

    I read this book Christmas 2010 and have been following the exercise 6 days a week rule since then. I walk and do yoga most frequently. I don’t sweat as much as recommended, but try to add in snowshoeing and bike riding as I can. My set weight has dropped a few pounds (I’ve never been heavy) and I feel so much better. I turned 50 this year and expect to continue with this program for the rest of my life.

    Thanks for the refresher, as there were some points I had forgotten about but will refocus on.

  16. Betsy says 04 April 2012 at 08:28

    I wish we lived in a society where we all worked a bit less and could enjoy life BEFORE retirement, instead of humping our butts until we get old and pushing every joy and comfort off until we aren’t working any more.

    American life is nothing but work til you drop, until you’re old enough to say “I’ve worked til I dropped, now I deserve to have a good time.”

    That seems dysfunctional and very bifurcated to me. There are only 34 or so productive weekly hours in a person anyway, regardless of how much more time they *spend* at work. why can’t we just vote ourselves a break and live normally?

    • Quest says 04 April 2012 at 08:48

      I am already retired, thanks to my job having disappeared during the 2008 financial crash. I am nowhere near retirement age but the job loss and crash made me realize something very important to me: unless I learned to live well within my means, there would NEVER be enough money for me. I was a spendaholic hoarder. I made the decision to make my life work for me as a retiree because I really had no choice. I live out in the desert, away from large cities and jobs, but fortunately my spouse is a high earner. That has enabled us to make some much smarter financial decisions over the past 4 years. My spouse, too, will retire way before official retirement age just because we have learned to live within our means by spending carefully, saving and not buying crap.

      If I could impart one life lesson it would be just that: value every dollar earned. Think carefully about what income is spent/wasted on, think about needs vs wants, discover what is important to YOU. I have come to realize too late that life does not necessarily have to be a treadmill of making money to pay the bills incurred from consumerism. Debt free is what is important to me but other people will of course have their own ideas.

  17. Quest says 04 April 2012 at 08:37

    LOL I’ll take the Superman underwear! This is a great article and I totally agree with what’s written here. I DO have a choice to rot or not and I choose not to. Daily exercise and watching caloric intake is what the spouse and I are striving for. It is a complete 180 degree change from the way we were living up until a couple of years ago but we are gradually shedding the excess pounds and increasing exercise. We have to if we are going to enjoy our retirement years, as you so rightly point out.

  18. This Aggie Saves says 04 April 2012 at 08:48

    Excellent post. I have a lot to strive for- the exercise being the main component.

  19. Queeb says 04 April 2012 at 09:01

    Great post!
    I have been an avid exerciser for years and feel great. And I am often told I look younger than I am. I don’t know if it will add years to my life but the quality it adds is immeasurable:)

  20. Ris says 04 April 2012 at 09:10

    If you think you don’t have time to exercise, get rid of your cable. Donate your tv. Make it a rule to turn off the smartphone after 6pm. You’d be surprised how much time you suddenly have to do all kinds of things you previously were too busy for.

    • Frugal Chick in Indiana says 04 April 2012 at 09:47

      I totally agree. We dropped cable about a year ago and I have a crazy amount of free time now. It’s amazing how freeing it is. I don’t miss TV at all.

    • betsy22 says 04 April 2012 at 10:55

      I got rid of cable a couple of years ago and I DO miss it, I have to say….but instead, I have a gym membership at a YMCA where a lot of the exercise equipments have a individual tv hookup (with cable!!!) On the days that I don’t make it to bootcamp, it’s motivating to go to the gym, use the exercise bike/treadmill/what have you, and watch my favorite cable shows.

  21. El Nerdo says 04 April 2012 at 09:12

    Wow, I saw Robert’s name and thought I’d find a post on the stock market, and was surprised by this one– great post though! (Still, there’s the Wall Street connection).

    Anyway, love the rules– simple, clear, easy to understand.

    Also, for further inspiration, here’s a great little photo book you guys might want to look at:



    and the artist’s website:
    ^^used to have a bunch of great photos, it’s now a blog.

    These aren’t affiliate links BTW, I make no money off those recommendations.

    Anyway: we keep her fridge magnets on our fridge, to remind us where we wanna be in 40 years!

  22. retirebyforty says 04 April 2012 at 09:47

    I like the Quit eating crap! clause.
    You are what you eat. We mostly cook at home and eat pretty healthy, but could still cut out some process food like chips and chocolate…

  23. Jason says 04 April 2012 at 09:53

    So many of seem to lack common sense as that is all that is in this book. Great book and a great review. It’s all common sense, get out, move, eat well, don’t be dumb, plan ahead. Everything mom told you to do! 🙂 My wife and I recently got off the couch and got back in the game of life and are loving it!

  24. Lori Blatzheim says 04 April 2012 at 09:55

    Thank you Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool.

    This is a terrific post and I appreciate it. I plan to print the suggestions and place it on my refrigerator so that I don’t forget to follow them

    In honor of my retirement from nursing , on 2/16/12, I decided to start a blog on the experience of retirement and aging. Besides the monetary issues faced by Seniors, I am convinced there are emotional issues such as identiby, friendships and what to do with the rest of my life.

    It seems to me that reasonable exercise, consistently practiced, can lead to improved confidence and better opinion of self.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I will now spread the work through my blog:

  25. Andrew says 04 April 2012 at 09:56

    This is a very appropriate post for me. I’m sitting at home suffering a gout attack. Gout!

    Since I hit 50 my body has been rebelling against my poor food choices and my unwillingness to exercise. I’ve heard that the 50s are the years when all your past sins start to catch up with you and I guess I now believe it.

    I think reading this book might be a good idea.

  26. brooklyn money says 04 April 2012 at 10:41

    This is a great post. I sent it to my mom who is a few years out from retirement. I really want her to take this to heart.

  27. Laura says 04 April 2012 at 11:53

    Thanks, Robert, for a great post. I am proud to say that I read it just after returning from a lunch hour swim at the nearby pool. 🙂 Had to really motivate myself to do it, but this post reminds me it’s the right thing to do.

  28. Doug P. says 04 April 2012 at 14:54

    Thanks for the reminder. I read this about two years ago at age 41 and it is as relevant for a 41 year old as a 61 year old.

    It was a good, easy read… recommended (though the blog post does a great job summarizing the book if you want to get on to other reading on your list).


  29. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says 04 April 2012 at 16:04

    Couldn’t agree more with Connect and commit. Who wants to live to be a 100 if you become a shut in at 80?

  30. leigh says 04 April 2012 at 17:17

    there is giving advice to generally take care of oneself, and then there’s coupling it with made up statistics and making unrealistic broad-brush promises. “become functionally younger every year for the next decade”- come on, that is meaningless. sure it sounds like feel-good stuff, and who’s going to argue against advice to eat right and exercise, but that’s a completely ridiculous promise to make to anyone.

    what a disappointment to see such stuff promoted at GRS.

  31. Heather George says 04 April 2012 at 17:46

    I read this book a few years ago (women’s version) and LOVED it, makes a lot of sense. Gave away my copy to my mom and bought a few as gifts for friends too. Thanks for the refresher!

  32. Patricia says 04 April 2012 at 18:39

    Another great book along these lines is “Healthy at 100” by John Robbins–very well-written and inspirational. Diet and exercise have a huge influence in health and lifespan and the book details factors in common among the world’s healthiest peoples which contribute to longevity and well-being. Many illnesses of “old age” are largely avoidable.

    • Elizabeth says 05 April 2012 at 04:25

      I agree that lifestyle habits can go a long way to reduce our risk of disease, delay the onset of disease and manage disease, but we also have to be aware that diet and exercise aren’t a free pass. Our environment and genes play a large role too.

      I think we should anything we can to stay healthy, but I also think we need to be aware that there are factors beyond our control and stop blaming ourselves and others for getting sick. I’ve seen people who ate and did whatever they wanted live into their 90s, and otherwise healthy people drop dead of congenital or inherited issues. Sometimes life makes no sense at all.

      • Carla says 05 April 2012 at 08:39

        Truer words have never been spoken.

  33. Elizabeth Lukes says 04 April 2012 at 19:00

    Read this book long ago. The book adamantly advised the reader to join a gym and hire a trainer, which some are unable to do. Another book that offers great life-extending advice is Sitting Kills, Moving Heals by Joan Vernikos. The advice offered is simple, though putting any advice into action, from any author, isn’t always easy!

  34. Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy says 04 April 2012 at 19:23

    It’s so nice to see a personal finance website talk about health, and especially in the context of evolution! He’s right: our modern diets make us age faster. Our bodies use carbs to measure food availability, and that tells us how fast we should age. Eat more carbs = age faster. Eat less carbs = age slower. Our bodies evolved having very few carbs compared to today. We live longer now because of anti-biotics, clean drinking-water, etc., but we biologically age faster (age at menarche, hair loss, etc.)

    And the immune system is in high gear because of all the “new” stuff that we eat (new in an evolutionary sense): for most of our evolution, we didn’t eat grains (glutens in some), dairy, etc. It puts you immune system in high gear. And your immune system is linked to your blood sugar. Plus, you don’t want your immune system accidentally attacking your own tissues because it’s hyperactive (auto-immune disorders).

    Take your favorite disease: type it into google with the words “insulin resistance,” and/or “auto-immune.” It’s scary. It’s one big circle. In sum, start with the Paleo diet (essentially what our bodies were designed to eat), then add in foods one by one and see you look, feel, and perform.

    If anyone wants to know about the molecular pathway controlling most of this, shoot me an email. I’d be glad to tell you.

  35. Carla says 05 April 2012 at 00:29

    I exercise doing HIIT and power lifting 5 days a week and I’m still depressed a lot of the time and I have MS. I can’t imagine where I would be health wise if I did nothing at all!

  36. imelda says 05 April 2012 at 22:07

    I’m 26, and don’t feel like doing any of these things. Can I start when I’m 50?

  37. stellamarina says 09 April 2012 at 23:58

    This reminds me of a book I read some time ago about preparing for retirement. The main point was that there are other things to prepare apart from saving money for retirement. Other areas to prepare in where: Having interests to persue, having good social connections, being on good terms with your family members and of course, keeping your body healthy. Not only for the feeling of well being but also to prevent a lot of your hard earned retirement savings going on medical bills.

  38. Marisa says 03 September 2019 at 09:09

    This is what I have to remind myself every time I don’t want to go to the gym or reach for that extra slice of pizza! Tough to learn but I feel like it’s better to have preventative care than have to pay for long term care insurance at this point…

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