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Book Review: Your Best Body at 40+

Posted by bmagnus On June - 23 - 2010

It can be very hard to figure out where to get started when it comes to getting in shape: Do I just plunge in and get a gym membership or can I do something at home? Should I hire a personal trainer? Can I really do that program I saw on the late night infomercial? I’m not a kid anymore; what can I realistically do? The problems multiply when you consider diet: Low fat or low carb? Are any of those frozen low-cal dinners worth eating? What about all those shakes and bars and supplements?  Men’s Health Magazine and Jeff Csatari try to cut through all the nonsense with Your Best Body at 40+.

This book does start with one slightly flawed assumption: that you were fit at some point, but the siren song of the couch lured you in. Other than that, it offers some pretty basic advice that most people will find easy to understand. In turn it addresses the importance of exercise, basic diet tips, “power foods”, simple recipes that require minimal kitchen skills, flexibility, sleep and stress, a workout plan, general health issues for the middle aged man, grooming tips, and supplements and medications.

The diet tips are generally solid, and include things like avoiding processed foods, making sure you drink enough water, and portion control. We are generally not fans of anybody’s list of “power foods.” The very term implies that if the helpless dieter would only eat more of these amazing things and less of everything else, pounds will just melt away. This particular list is heavy on the veggies, which are in fact undeniably good for you. However, low-fat chocolate milk tops the list, recommended as a post-exercise recovery drink and a good source of protein based on a 2006 study. Anyone who follows this advice needs to be aware of the extra sugar they are consuming along with their protein, calcium, and Vitamin D.

The workout program is likely to be intimidating to the novice. Two strength workouts are included, designed to be alternated, and one requires gym equipment. Over the years, I have become skeptical of the idea that it is possible for most people to learn weightlifting from a book. There is simply too much that happens between “start here, end here, lower back to start” to really get the form right from the typical 2-4 pictures and a few bullet points. I recommend that anyone who is serious about weights either use a video or better yet a personal trainer to learn proper form.

The medical chapter was tedious, and perhaps not meant to be read paragraph by paragraph unless you are already a hypochondriac. Since it is geared very specifically at middle aged men, most women will find themselves glossing over the section on prostate issues to get to the next section on the thyroid. The personal care chapter discusses everything from moisturizers to botox, so it’s fairly general but brief. The final chapter is mostly a “what do I do if” guide for everything from coughs to poison ivy, followed by a very basic primer on commonly used supplements.

All in all, this book is a starting point and not really a comprehensive guide to having the best possible body at age 40 and beyond. The book tends to be very superficial and barely touches on a number of important fitness topics; readers looking for more are clearly guided to the pages of Mens’ Health Magazine which is often solid in its advice but tends to over-promise results. We’ve reviewed better books before and frankly you’d be better off picking up a copy of Body For Life (which we reviewed here) than this title.

His Take: As a man about to be 40+ I really can’t recommend this book. It’s just not meaty enough anywhere in its content to truly satisfy. Diet wise, read here or get a start at a site like Paleodiet.com or Mark’s Daily Apple. For exercise there are plenty of starter guides, join the gang at Reddit Fitness or even Mens’ Health (but watch out for their constant efforts to sell you something unless you’re looking for a program). Want to buy a home program, check these out. Point being, there’s a lot more out there than this book even really touches on.

Her Take: I have to agree that there are much better books out there, ones that aren’t quite so centered on men of a certain age.

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