Buck Up: The Real Bloke’s Guide to Getting Healthy and Living Longer

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Buck Shelford, All Black legend, hopes to live to be a hundred, to be a grandfather and a koro to his mokopuna (grandchildren) and still be fit enough to play hard with them and to tire them out.

A few years ago this seemed extremely unlikely.  Struck down with cancer (from which he has now recovered) and facing an uphill battle with obesity he might well have landed himself in an early grave.  But Buck has regained his health. Now, at 54 years of age, he is passionate about motivating other men to get fit and healthy so they can also live their life to the fullest.

As he says: "Men just don't live as long as women and Maori and Pacific men have the shortest lives of all New Zealanders. It doesn't have to be this way."

He believes that if men put their minds to it they can do it. He loves seeing runners in their seventies going strong.

To help spread the message he has teamed up  with Dr Grant Schofield, a leading New Zealand medical researcher, to write " Buck Up, the Real Bloke's Guide to getting healthy and Living Longer"

The book is split into 4 sections:

1. Fitness and Health
2. Weight and Staying in Shape
3. Mental Toughness
4. Medical Stuff

Fitness and Health

Fitness is the key to better health and longevity. Research is presented to prove that this is true. It shows that fit men are almost three times less likely to die from any cause than unfit men. Fit here means cardio-respiratory fitness, the sort you get from aerobic exercise which can be as simple as a half hour walk.

There is lots of advice in this section on how to get running and walking, what to wear, what kinds of shoes to buy for different running styles, and about sports nutrition.

The importance of resistance training is stressed. And the good news is that unless you are in the last stages of palliative care it is never too late to start. It's worth it because the simple fact is that if you don't use a muscle you lose it.

Weight and Staying in Shape

"Let's front up: says Buck that as a society we are getting too fat and we need to do something about it.

Buck himself used the Jenny Craig diet to lose 25 kg of excess weight. It worked for him but may well not work for others. Dr Schofield points out that it is still a calorie controlling diet, lowish in protein and quite high in refined carbohydrates. And buying their food costs and may not be sustainable in the long run.

There are some cautionary notes on the dangers of surgical solutions to weight loss, and a section on mythbusting diets.

He has mapped out a diet to help men lose weight and to keep it off for life based on 6 principles which are spelt out in detail.

Buck is now keeping his weight down by eating sensibly: mostly home-cooked meals, plenty of protein and heaps of vegetables.

Mental Toughness

This part is about dealing with life's curveballs. Being tough is about getting up again and again, despite the setbacks.It's about being resilient. Here Buck adopts a tough attitude towards getting the job done:

"As I have been saying all along, if you are going to do it, do it right, do it properly or don't do it at all."

There are techniques you can learn to let the positives outweigh the negatives and how to deal with stress.

Sleeping well is essential for good concentration. Techniques to ensure a good night's sleep as well as how to cure serious snoring are provided.

Medical Stuff

This is the most technical part of the book. Here there is information about the heart, diabetes, the brain, cancer, man flu, sex and growing old. Knowing about these will enable men to take responsibility and to give them some understanding when something goes wrong. It will help them to have two way conversations with their doctor. Regular check-ups are also encouraged.

Buck Up is a very readable introduction to men's health. I suspect as many women as men will buy it, and this is a good thing. As Buck's wife points out in the introduction:

"Women don't want to bury their men too early. They want them in their lives and not as a memory hanging on the wall. So this book is also for the mothers, sisters, wives and daughters who want to step up and support their men.

Buck Up: The Real Bloke's Guide to Getting Healthy and Living Longer
Author: Buck Shelford
Penguin Group (NZ) | RRP $39.99