Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Review: Sod 70! by Muir Gray

I'm guessing that you have been drawn in by the earthy and arresting book title. I too found it irresistible, perhaps because of the note of defiance conveyed by the author.
This is a short little guide, brought to my attention by my younger sister who at some time in the past has worked with the writer. I think she may have been gently hinting that I need to get on top of things as my seventieth birthday looms on the horizon.

I don't imagine that a large percentage of the blogging community is in my age group. Correct me if I'm wrong. But if you have yet to achieve this great age and feel that you are not quite ready for this book then I urge you to get hold of a copy for your mum, dad, granny, or great-aunt Ada.

First let me tell you of Sir Muir Gray's impressive credentials, as listed on the back cover of the book. He is one of Britain's most senior medical figures; the founding Director of the UK National Screening Programmes. His main focus has been on the prevention of disease, particularly in older people. He continues to work for the NHS and is also Director of Better Value Healthcare. In short, he knows his stuff.
"When asked about how I felt to be seventy, I replied Sod Seventy!"
Muir Gray 
There are thousands of health and fitness books out there. What is unique about this one is that it is specifically written for people who are in the later stages of life. The book pulls no punches.
We can either age well and hopefully live a fit and healthy life well into our eighties and perhaps beyond. Or we can allow ourselves to sink into declining fitness and the associated patterns of disease and depression. What Muir Gray describes as the fitness gap is well illustrated by a graph in the book. Basically, we each reach our peak of fitness when we are in our twenties and then levels start to decline. This applies even to world class athletes and sportsmen. But the rate and level of decline are determined by whether or not we get adequate amounts of exercise.
Muir Gray assures the reader that it is possible to maintain a similar level of fitness to that which we enjoyed in our youth or to regain some fitness. This requires simple measures such as regular walks, and easy exercises for strength and suppleness which can be completed in ten minutes each day, some at the kitchen sink. The book describes how to do it. 
It can be difficult for some of us to motivate ourselves to get into a routine that incorporates regular walks and stretching exercises. I have sometimes struggled myself because I have one total knee replacement and are desperately attempting to put off the second. It's easy to make excuses, to tell ourselves that we are getting older, can't manage to exercise, deserve a quiet life in front of the tv. But the benefits come quickly and are enormous. 

I know from observing people around me that maintaining fitness is key to a long life and enjoyable old age:
  • One of my bridge partners is in his eighties and plays tennis to a high standard. 
  • My father was a very keen gardener. Throughout his life he maintained the same weight that he had been as a young man through a healthy diet and staying active, mostly  due to his passion for gardening. In his later years, my dad took twelve prescription pills each day to keep him on his surfboard and for years had lived with a leaking heart valve. He died suddenly at the age of ninety - the previous day I had driven him into town for the regular shopping trip and he had been joking with the girls behind the counter in his building society. People were astonished by Dad's youthful approach to life and generally believed that he was around fifteen years younger than his actual age.
As Muir Gray points out, a positive attitude and maintaining interests are key to living a good life in old age. He writes frankly about the possibility of disease and how to minimise the risks through diet, exercise, mindfulness and continuing to find a purpose in life. He even tells us how to achieve a good death, when the time arrives (with a bit of effort and good luck later rather than sooner).

The book is divided into 5 chapters-

  • Ageing is not a problem
  • Don't worry- get fitter!
  • The art of body maintenance
  • Choosing and using healthcare wisely
  • Achieving wellbeing
Summary - an easy read, easy to understand, and motivating.

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