The Four Factors of Longevity
Aging should NOT be a process of debilitation. Take the necessary steps now to ensure your quality of life in the future
The aging process, when studied vigorously, is markedly complex. It involves changes across the entire spectrum of metabolism. The current body of science is vigorously studying this cascade in an attempt to better understand how the aging process can be improved, halted, or even reversed.
To the layperson living their day to day life, much of this research is not entirely relevant.
For the individuals I work with in person and online, improving their health has to happen in real time. It has to happen NOW.
While pharmaceutical strategies are a valid means of reversing of the aging process, they are not the whole picture either.
Lifestyle is the greatest factor, and within that, the physical components of health matter the most.
There are four primary physical factors that any individual can begin making an immediate impact upon:
1. Lean Body Mass
2. Grip Strength
3. Cardiovascular endurance
The Four Factors
When it comes to subject of improving one’s “fitness”, there are surprisingly few objective measures. Commonly assumed ideas such as mile times or weight lifting numbers have little correspondence with actual longevity. Running a 7 minute mile does not make you “healthier” than someone that runs 7:30. Taking a spin class five times a week is not better than five days. Deadlifting 500 pounds is not “better” than 400 pounds.
While these performance markers are worthwhile as personal goals, I’ve realized that the question of what is good “fitness” is an entirely nebulous one. Depending on the audience, you will get entirely different answers.
Benchmarks associated with the squat, bench and deadlift do not correspond with decreased mortality or risk factors. A high volume of exercise is often no better than a moderate volume.
Within the frame of medicine and exercise science, there are four definite factors that have strong supporting evidence. It is these factors that I advise you to focus your long term efforts into
- Grip Strength-Grip strength corresponds very strongly mortality. Strong grip doest just indicate hand strength, but a likely more active lifestyle, a healthier nervous system, and it demonstrates ability to manipulate the environment. To quote “every 5-kg decrease in grip strength was linked to a 16% increase in death overall, a 17% increase in both cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular mortality, a 7% increase in the risk of myocardial infarction, and a 9% increase in the risk of stroke. The findings were broadly consistent across different countries and economic levels.
- Lean Body Mass-Lean body mass refers to any tissue that isnt fat. From an exercise perspective, LBM refers to muscle. Individuals with more muscle, and higher LBM, they live longer than those with less muscle. Degenerative aging is characterized by a decline in lean body mass, and the less of it you have when aging begins in your mid to late 40s, the greater the decline as you move into each decade. Regular and consistent resistance training, ie, lifting weights, this is the most straightforward means to begin improving your LBM right now.
- Cardiovascular health-Heart health matters. But how much exercise is required to be “heart healthy”. Contrary to popular perception, the amount of cardiovascular required to achieve the health benefits is NOT that much nor that intense. 75 minutes if aerobically intense activity a week, or 150 minutes of low intensity activity. Within the course of a week, walking for 20 to 30 minutes cumulatively fulfills the requirements. Three short aerobically intense workouts of less than 30 minutes fulfills this as well. Your heart health and cardiorespiratory fitness are the most readily improvable, and simple WALKING will give you the longevity benefits.
- BMI-BMI is a controversial topic, but the science behind it is undeniable. Excess bodyweight is NOT healthy. The only valid argument against BMI is that some very muscular individuals may be overweight according to the chart, but they are largely outliers. For the majority of people, BMI is a very relevant predictor of health and longevity. How to improve your BMI if you are overweight? Fat loss, pure and simple. Excess adipose tissue must be rid of.
How to do all of the above?
Of the four factors, three of them, grip strength, lean body mass, and cardiovascular health, can be accomplished by appropriately programmed resistance training. This is more popularly called “bodybuilding”.
Technically as training for hypertrophy, resistance training can be expressly designed to improve lean body mass, increase physical strength, and improve cardiovascular health, all at the same time.
With the addition of low intensity, low impact aerobic activity to ensure the full spectrum of exercise health benefits, physical health can be readily improved within months.
The final piece lies in improving bodyweight and body composition.
Fat loss is an involved subject, and goes beyond “calories in, calories out”. While the science of fat loss is simple, the practice thereof is NOT.
Long term health must be considered when embarking on a “fat loss” diet, and the whole of one’s lifestyle must be accounted for especially understanding one’s insulin sensitivity.
In Part 2, we will discuss training for longevity in detail. In Part 3, Fat loss and health will be fully addressed.