“Come on you apes! You want to live forever?”
– Dan Daly & Some Guy from the Starship Troopers movie.
This guy i think. I don’t know.
Well, yes actually.
Specifically I want to live as well as I can for as long as I can – I have no interest in living to 110 if the last 30 years of my life are spent bed ridden, in pain and watching reruns of Cheers.
At the time of writing the five leading causes of death and disability in Australia are, in order,
Coronary heart disease
Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Cerebrovascular disease (Stroke)
As scary as this is there are a number of things you can do in your day to day life that will have a direct effect on your health and increase your chance of achieving immortality.
Blame your parents.
Genetics play a huge role in determining risk factors.
My limited amount of research has thrown up a bunch of different theories regarding which factors most determine the likelihood of you developing one of the above conditions and I think it’s fair to say that the general consensus is something like 50% Genes – 40% Lifestyle – 10% Luck.
The best thing you can do here is to realise it really is all your parents’ fault and then move on and focus on things you can actually do something about.
Do whatever you can to reduce chronic levels of inflammation.
Chronic high levels of inflammation are directly related to the incidence of Coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Strokes. On the plus side there’s plenty of things you can do to lower inflammation and the majority of them are easy to do.
First, make sure you are getting plenty of good quality sleep. Try to get at least 8 hours a night in a properly darkened room. Personally I have also invested in a quality mattress, comfortable pillows, good sheets and I do whatever I can to be comfortable in bed. You spend almost a third of your life in bed and it’s worth every cent to invest in sleep.
Next, drink plenty of water. Specifically try to drink 30ml of water per kilo of bodyweight each day. More if you are especially active and sweat a lot.
Make sure you get plenty of Vitamin D – either from the sun directly or via supplementation if you have to spend the majority of your time indoors. Fish oil is also an excellent supplement for reducing inflammation and a number of other maladies and is well worth the coin.
Finally, regular meditation has a number of health benefits and just ten minutes a day is all you need to start seeing them.
Make sure you can move well.
On average one in three adults take a fall every year and 40% of all injury related deaths are from falls so it’s important to learn how to fall safely and stand up easily.
If you practice a martial art your ukemi (breakfalls) skills are way more likely to save your life than any punch, kick or choke.
Regularly walking and sprinting will help you maintain a good quality of life as you age. Avoid jogging if you can as it places considerably more strain on your muscles, joints and heart than either walking or sprinting while providing a fraction of the benefits.
Bonus points for regularly lifting, carrying and placing objects overhead and give yourself a gold star if you keep up your ability to scale and climb.
Build and keep functional muscle mass.
Your waist circumference and the amount of belly fat you are carrying around is an excellent indicator of how likely you are to develop serious heart or health problems. Basically the bigger the number the worse it looks for you.
You may have noticed that as you age you go from being to eat whatever you want and easily maintain your pants size to putting on weight every time someone says the word “donut”.
This occurs because the older we get the more our Basal Metabolic rate (our “metabolism”) slows down. Our Basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy we use to keep our body functioning while we are at rest and it makes up 60 to 75% of our daily calorie expenditure. How many calories our Basal metabolic rate uses is determined by a number of factors but it is most directly affected by how much lean body mass we have.
Lean body mass begins to drop dramatically from age 35 onwards which is why I recommend that every weight training session after your 35th birthday has some elements of hypertrophy. It shouldn’t be anything too extreme – just 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps on one of the big lifts (squat, bench, deadlift) or on two Phasic (see below) muscle groups.
Stretch what is tight and strengthen what is weak.
In 1964 a Czechoslovakian neurologist and exercise physiologist Doctor Vladimir Janda, as a part of his efforts to help polio victims rehabilitate, began discussing and researching the muscles necessary for posture. To simplify, Janda separated muscles into two groups: Tonic, which tend to shorten with age and Phasic, which tend to weaken with age.
An easy way to hold back the ravages of time while continuing to train in a fashion that will improve athletic performance is to build a program that focuses on strengthening the Phasic muscles and stretching the Tonic muscles.
A short list of each includes:
Muscles that get tighter (Tonic)
Pectoralis Major & Pectoralis Minor (your “pecs” or chest muscles)
Psaos (hip flexors)
gastrocnemius & Soleus (calf muscles)
Muscles that get weaker (Phasic)
Vastus medialis & Vastus lateralis (quadriceps muscles)
What is interesting about the above is that the majority of people train the exact opposite of what is needed to diminish the effects of ageing. Go to any commercial gym and you will find a legion of “bros” benching, curling and shrugging before stretching out their triceps, glutes and quads.
To recap –
- Blame your parents & move on.
- Don’t smoke.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Drink more water.
- Take Vitamin D and Fish Oil.
- Learn how to fall & get back up.
- Build & keep some muscle.
- Stretch what is tight.
- Strengthen what is weak.
Live a life worth remembering.