Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Maximize your healthspan

Image stolen from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/02/healthspan-vs-lifespan/

I read a great article this weekend over at World Economic Forum* about the lives of masters athletes vs regular folks.

tl;dr: people who train for sport their whole life may only live slightly longer, but their years are much better and healthier.

Basically masters athletes stay young until there's a rapid decline and that's it. There's no long, slow, (expensive) decline with lots of suffering. But let's not dwell on that, let's look at how we all can stay healthy and active for years to come. The article focuses mostly on masters athletes because it's an easy cohort to study, but the takeaway is that being strong and putting on muscle is probably the best thing anyone can do to increase their "healthspan".

I quote from the article:
1) Move more. Take a moment and consider how long you spend sitting each day. Simply moving more, and moving more regularly throughout the day, even if you have to set an alarm to remind yourself to stand up and walk around now and again, can have a powerful influence on reducing the risk of disease, death and improving quality of life. 
2) Move slow. Aiming to accumulate 10,000 steps each day has become a common means to increase daily physical activity. While some studies have not been supportive, many have demonstrated that increasing step count, and trying to integrate additional steps into your day to reach the 10,000 target, can be beneficial in terms of increasing physical activity and health. 
3) Move fast. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves repeated bouts of high-intensity effort, followed by varied recovery times. A typical HIIT session could last between 20 and 60 minutes, but even shorter sessions have been demonstrated to be beneficial. A 2012 study among healthy, but sedentary men and women, demonstrated that 10-minute high-intensity cycling sessions, repeated three times per week for six weeks, improved health and fitness markers, including a 28% increase in insulin sensitivity and 12-15% improvement in VO2 max. 
4) Move heavy. After turning 50, muscle mass begins to decrease at a rate of 1-2% per year, and muscle strength declines at 1.5–5% per year. Having more functional muscle may be associated with a 'whole-body neuro-protective effect’ and while more research is required, muscular strength appears to play an important and independent role in the prevention of cardiovascular heart disease. Being in the top 25% of muscle mass for your age-group appears to be a significant positive predictor of longevity. Peak muscle power is an important predictor of how well we’ll function in old-age. Try to include resistance training as part of your life, at least two-times per week. This could involve completing 8-12 repetitions, of 8-10 different exercises, that target all major muscle groups.
Who does that sound like? Maybe it's confirmation bias, but smart strength training with lots of low-level "cardio" with short excursions into high intensity is exactly what I've been prescribing. I think it's the key to success.

*Why would the "World Economic Forum" be writing about a topic like this? Well there are two things that scare me about the future: 1) the DOD has a report out that basically states that the lack of fitness of our youth is a national security risk - we can't find enough healthy folks to keep the military as strong as it needs to be to defend our country, and 2) the NHS predicts that by 2030 300% (yes, 300%!) of our GDP will need to go to fund health care for diabetes and related (Alzheimer, to be specific) illnesses.  Think about that: the country will need to spend $3 for every $1 that we make just to keep people alive. That's not sustainable no matter what healthcare model you believe in.

Your future health and wellness is your responsibility. You need to be strong and you can't rely on the system to take care of you. At the current rates, the math doesn't work out. Get in the gym, train with weights, and eat right. Even if the system doesn't collapse, do you want to be strong and healthy or do you want a long, slow decline? It really is up to you and what you do now.


row 500 / run 400
crawling lunge
10 KB swings or snatches
double KB overhead lunge
10 TGUs or windmills
10 goblet squats
5 pull-ups or push-ups or dips


squat 5-3-3-3x3


2 pull-ups + 2 dips between strength sets

Group Workout

10 rounds for sense of urgency
heavy farmer's walk to the red door
10 tall box jumps
1 pull-up

Subscribe to our RSS Get our blog posts in your inbox

Sign up for classes
Free endurance program ebook