"I've discovered the elixir of life - it's called knowledge"

We didn’t know it a century ago but we know it now: age is malleable. No more is chronological age a signifier of anything beyond how many birthdays you’ve been lucky to enjoy.

It remains a primary risk factor for chronic diseases and impairments. But your biological age – the state of your physical self – is determined by your environmental and social context, your lifestyle history and habits, and your genes. It’s measured by a battery of biomarkers – things like cell viscosity and grip strength.

Sir Muir Gray is a human billboard for the disconnect between birthdays and biological age and the power of exercise of mind and body to maintain good health at every age – 70s through 90s too.

He’s one of the UK’s leading medical figures – a physician, Oxford University professor, public health expert and innovator. He was knighted in 2005 for services to the NHS, the UK’s universal care National Health Service, and currently holds a half dozen jobs and advisory roles. He’s also written seven books – Sod 70! is the latest and blows up the old = frail narrative society keeps dishing.

Sir Muir says knowledge is the elixir of life: “Clean, clear knowledge is the equivalent in this century of clean, clear water in the 19th century – it’s a public health service, people need access to it. Knowledge is the enemy of disease.’

As well as people arming themselves with knowledge – advocating for their own health – he wants empathetic doctors writing knowledge prescriptions alongside those for social therapy and drugs.

We speak about the power of conquering stress, volunteering that’s intellectually challenging – not just filling time – why we’re genetically mismatched to our environment, and why cliche gifts for the elderly like shawls and slippers merit tossing on a bonfire. Instead, he says, give resistance bands, free weights or lease them a treadmill or a stationary bike, preferably equipped with Virtual Reality if getting out of the house is an issue.

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