Science-backed advice from a 61-year-old CEO with sub-10 percent body fat
In his early 20s, Strauss Zelnick seemed one of the least likely people to pen a health and fitness book. He didn’t exercise and it wasn’t until a friend pointed out that he’d put on weight that he realized he wasn’t the skinny guy he thought himself to be. “I was like, ‘Woah. That doesn’t bode well for the future,'” says Zelnick, the founder of Zelnick Media Capital and president and CEO of Take-Two Interactive.
The wake-up call kicked off a 40-year fitness journey during which he has tackled sports like cycling, running, boxing, squash, and gymnastics. At 61, he’s working on mastering the handstand, he has less than nine percent body fat, and his one-rep max for the bench press is around 190 pounds.
He never imagined writing a book until a few years ago, when another friend suggested he share the story behind his transformation from self-described skinny guy to real-life athlete. The result is his new book Becoming Ageless: The Four Secrets to Looking and Feeling Younger Than Ever. “It explains exactly what it takes to be fit and healthy at any age with all the research to support it,” he says.
Here are three of the most interesting things Zelnick learned while writing his book (that back up his own experience) about keeping the mind and body young.
Try the less-is-more approach.
When it comes to staying youthful and increasing longevity, deliberately plodding along can actually be more effective than going all out. A 2015 study looked at more than 1,000 runners and found that those who jogged slowly had lower mortality rates than those who ran faster. “I was a terrible runner, so a few years ago I worked with a coach,” says Zelnick. Even though they suggested brisk, one-hour sessions, Zelnick insisted on 45-minute jogs. “That was just at the brink of what I could live with before saying, ‘I hate this so much, I’ll never do it again,’” he says. “Taking it slow and steady was my strategy.”
Research from the University of Texas at Dallas found that trying new, cognitively demanding activities improves memory function in older adulthood. “It’s just not true that we lose the ability to learn or improve our performance after the age of 25,” says Zelnick. “I picked up skiing in my 30s, cycling in my 40s, boxing in my 50s, and I’m picking up gymnastics and squash now.” Not only is it possible to learn new skills as you age, but doing so can keep your body and brain young.
Accept the learning process.
Study upon study shows the importance of grit in predicting success, and Zelnick believes it also keeps you young. You probably won’t pull off a world-class performance the first, even the 10th time you try something. “Don’t be afraid of failure or slow progress,” he says. “There are days when I play squash and I do really badly. And yes, I might get frustrated with myself but then I realize, you know what? I showed up, I did the best I could, I’ll do better the next time—or I won’t. But I’m still going to keep going.”