One Actionable Idea to Help You Live Better
Unlock the Secret to a Longer, Healthier Life.
I think pretty everyone understands that exercise is good for us.
Even if you don’t do much of it, you cognitively understand that human beings were designed to move, and people who move more tend to be healthier.
But do you realise how much of a difference exercise can make to your health and the quality of your life?
There are significant data that show that even a fairly minimal amount of exercise can lengthen your life by several years by delaying the onset of chronic diseases.
It’s not all about lifespan – how long you live – though.
Healthspan – the quality of your health – is arguably more important.
There’s little point living to 90 if the last 10+ years of your life are spent stuck in a chair dependent on others for everything.
Sadly this is the reality for far too many people.
Modern medicine has got pretty good at keeping people live, but it can’t do much about the quality of your life.
That I’m afraid, is down to you and how you’ve lived the preceding 60 plus years.
If you want to live longer and live better, exercise is your best tool.
Exercise is more powerful than any available medical intervention at preventing disease and extending both lifespan and healthspan.
Not only does it reverse physical decline, but it can slow or reverse cognitive decline too.
If you’re currently not exercising, adding just 90 minutes of exercise into your week can reduce your risk of dying from all causes by 14%.
Almost no one dies of old age.
The reality is that almost everyone dies from either some form of cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes (or metabolic dysfunction) or Alzheimer’s.
And largely it depends on how healthy you have been during your life as to at what point in your life one of these four killers come knocking.
Multiple studies have shown that people who exercise live as much as a decade longer that sedentary people. And they don’t just live longer, they have far better health.
If you’re currently not doing any exercise, starting by doing just about anything is better than nothing. Even brisk walking is beneficial.
Cardio respiratory fitness (how efficiently your body delivers oxygen to you muscles & how efficiently your muscles can extract that oxygen) which is measured as VO2 max, is potentially the single most powerful marker for longevity.
The higher your VO2 max number, the fitter you are.
Fitter people have a lower mortality rate across the board.
Plus, the fitter you are, the more energy you will have for living.
Here’s an example to illustrate the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness:
A person who smokes has a 40 percent greater risk of all-cause mortality than someone who doesn’t smoke. A study found that someone of below-average VO2 max for their age and sex (between the 25th & 50th percentiles) is at double the risk of all-cause mortality than someone in the top quartile. Meaning that poor cardiorespiratory fitness carries a greater relative risk of death than smoking!
Someone in the bottom quartile for their age group is nearly four times more likely to die than someone in the top quartile, and five times more likely than someone with elite level VO2 max.
Just moving yourself from the bottom quartile to the third quartile almost cuts your risk in half!
It’s not just cardiorespiratory fitness that’s important.
Muscle may be almost as powerful at helping you to live longer.
A study of roughly 4,500 people aged fifty and older found that those with low muscle mass were at 40 to 50 percent greater risk of mortality than controls.
The study also found that it’s not just the muscle that matters but the force those muscle can generate – strength.
Subjects with low muscle strength were at double the risk of death, while those with low muscle mass and/or strength, plus metabolic syndrome, had a 3 to 3.33 times greater risk of all-cause mortality.
Muscle mass declines steeply after the age of sixty-five and then even more steeply after about seventy-five.
Continued muscle loss and inactivity quite literally puts your life at risk.
The good news is that we can slow the decline through exercise.
I could continue to hammer the point with more statistics, but I hope I have already done enough to convince you of the importance of exercise if you want to live longer and live better.
So what should you do?
There are a few key areas we need to focus on if we want to optimise our fitness and health.
- Aerobic endurance & efficiency
All of these are essential to maintaining your health and strength as you age.
Stability is really a combination of mobility and balance which form the solid foundations that enable us to do everything else that we want to do without getting injured.
Even if that is simply going up and down the stairs.
Mobility is controlled flexibility. Meaning your joints are able to move through the required range of motion while being actively controlled by the nervous system.
Simply being flexible isn’t much use it you’re just floppy. If anything, you could be at risk of injury.
Far too few people train either mobility or balance which is why so many people are stiff and fragile in later life.
Both should be trained on a daily basis, even if just for 30 minutes.
More than 250,000 people over the age of 65 end up in hospital in the U.K. each year due to falling. Most of which could be prevented with a little training.
I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating. We don’t move less because we get old. We get old because we move less.
You can start by simply moving all of your joints through their full range of motion a few times in each direction in a controlled manner. Each day try to move the joints a little bit more.
Practice balancing on one leg (barefoot). Once you can balance for a minute continuously, start to experiment with moving your arms and the non-standing leg to make it more challenging. Simple, but very effective.
For cardio you need to start slowly if you’re not currently exercising. Brisk walking for 30 minutes three to five times per week would be a good start.
Ultimately you want to work your way up to what is known as zone 2 which is somewhere between 72 and 80% of your maximum heart rate.
To figure out your estimated maximum heart rate use the below simple equation:
208 – (age x 0.7) = max heart rate
Using me as an example aged 43 it would look like this:
43 x 0.7 = 30.1
208 – 30.1 = 177.9 max heart rate.
Zone 2 for me would be 177.9 x 0.72 = 128 and 177.9 x 0.80 = 142
This is just an estimate. If you are already fit, your true max heart rate may be higher, as mine is, but it’s better to be a little on the low side when estimating.
This zone is so effective at building fitness that 80% of elite level endurance athletes’ training will be done at this level.
Once you have built up a decent level of fitness you can consider introducing VO2 max training. I won’t cover the specifics here, but it is a form of interval training that develops your maximum aerobic capacity.
For strength I recommend keeping it simple to begin with. Focus on the most basic functional human movement patterns:
- Squat/stepping pattern
- Hip hinge
- Pulling from all angles
- Pushing in all directions
You don’t need any fancy equipment or a gym to get started.
Depending on your current strength and fitness levels you could simply start by practicing sitting in a chair and standing back up without using your hands of momentum and progress as you get stronger.
A great low-cost investment would be some resistance bands such as these which are super versatile and great for pulling and pushing exercises.
Practicing carrying is also hugely important because it helps to build grip strength along with strength and stability throughout the body.
With all exercises it’s important to focus on control throughout the entire movement to get maximum benefit.
Just flopping into a chair isn’t achieving anything. Challenge yourself to see how slowly you can sit down and how powerfully you can stand back up.
If you’re reading this and you’re already an avid strength-trainer, this advice still applies to you.
The vast majority of the benefit of strength training comes from controlling the weight or your body through the eccentric – or lowering – portion of the movement.
I see too many people performing exercises like they’re in a race to get it done. These same people make very little progress and can’t seem to figure out why.
Don’t be that person.
If this still all sounds too complicated, get help. There is nothing better that you can do for your health than starting to exercise. It’s worth the learning curve and the short term discomfort.
No matter what age you are now, your future self will thank you.
I hope this has been of some use. If you’re not sure how to get started, hit reply to this email and let me know what you need help with.
Until next week, have a great Easter weekend.
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