woman demonstrating forward lunge exercise

Exercise is the answer to living a long life.

Exercise is probably the single best way to extend lifespan.

You need to exercise as if your life depends on it.

Because it does.

Here’s why…

When someone says that they ‘want to get fit’ - what does this mean?

How you exercise if you want to be an Olympic-level sprinter compared to run-in 5km at the weekends is very different.

So, when you say you want to get fit, to what end?

You should base your life goals on lifespan and health span:

  • to be an active and capable 90 year old?
  • to win at the ‘game of life’?

If I reach 90 years of age, I do not expect to be exercising at my current level but I do hope that I will be able to pick up my grandchildren or put my travel bag in the overhead compartment of an aircraft unassisted.

The longevity physician, Peter Attis, calls this Training for the Centenarian Olympics.

If you reach 90-100 years of age with your cognitive capabilities intact, what ‘Centenarian Olympic’ events will you want to compete in?

When you answer this question, you can then answer what it means to be ‘fit’ at 90.
But more importantly, how additionally fit you need to be now so that when your performance declines to that level, you know how much better it needs to be in advance.

If your goal is to be a kick-ass 90-year-old, you can’t settle for being an ‘average’ 50-year-old.

Now that we know our goal, we can start looking at some metrics that match this objective. The bottom line is that we aim not to die from ‘anything’ earlier than we had planned. This is known as reducing ‘All-Cause Mortality.

If an intervention reduces the risk of heart disease but causes a matched increase in serious cancers, then it is unlikely to extend your life. It will simply change what is written on your death certificate.

Best predictive ability on all-cause mortality:

How about standing on one foot unassisted for 10 seconds?
Sounds easy right?

Yet, about 20% of people in their early 60s cannot do so.
By age 70, that number has increased to 50%.
When most people reached their early 80s, that number is now close to 90%.

If you could perform the 10-second one-leg stand the probability of you being alive seven years later was over 90%.

If you couldn’t do the one-leg stand, that number dropped to just over 65%, a huge difference.

How about another simple but very telling test?

Grip Strength.

For every 5kg drop in grip strength, all-cause mortality increases by 15-20%

VO2 Max

Now let’s talk fitness.

VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilise during exercise. It i a standard measure of aerobic fitness. Specific aerobic training methods can increase this number specifically

Compared to those in the highest 2.5% VO2 Max category, those in the lowest 25% category are 5 times more likely to die over 10 years. There is practically nothing in medicine that results in this magnitude of survival advantage.

This is an enormous difference.

Most individuals can get into the top 2.5%VO2 Max category with appropriate training,

The persons included in the study referenced were normal individuals, not elite athletes. Most people reading this will likely feel they are not in the top 2.5% but probably somewhere above average.

So let’s define what was considered the bottom 25%. `not average, but ‘low’ fitness.
For a female in their mid-50s, low roughly equated to not being able to play a game of racquetball. For a male in their mid-50s low equated to not being able to play a game of basketball.

Do you still think that you are in the ‘average’ group?

Above average for the same age categories equated to comfortably running at 10km/hour for females and playing a game of competitive soccer for males.

Very quickly, people realise that their idea of ‘average’ often does not match the real ‘average’.
If we aim to be above-average 90-year-olds, we can’t get there if we are only average 50-year-olds.

When it comes to exercise, you need to treat it like your life depends on it.

Because it does…….

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