As a “guru” I consider it my job to tell you things you need to know; things that can change your life or the path you’re on.
You may not want to know what I have to share but that’s okay. I’m going to share it anyway.
So, here we go.
Fact: The weaker you are, the greater your chances of an early death. ((Metter EJ, Talbot LA, Schrager M, Conwit R. Skeletal muscle strength as a predictor of all-cause mortality in healthy men. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000 Mar;55(3):M168-73.))
As we age, we lose some muscle mass. It happens. You can influence the amount you lose but, you’re going to lose some no matter what you do.
The loss of muscle associated with aging is called “sarcopenia” – which means “poverty of flesh” from the Greek roots.
Your muscles get thinner, weaker, less flexible. And a lack of proper exercise is a significant risk factor for advanced sarcopenia.
The bottom line is that as your muscles get weaker, you get weaker and mortality rates soar.
The muscles to be most concerned about, when it comes to longevity, are your legs – the quadriceps in particular.
Muscle atrophy primarily affects one type of muscle fiber – Type II.
Type II fibers are are responsible for strength, speed, and power. Type I fibers are responsible for low intensity, longer duration activity like walking, running, cycling, swimming, or rowing.
They’re lazy though these Type II fibers.
You can go out for jog, sweat running down your face, dripping off your nose and most of your Type II fibers are napping the whole way.
And the more they nap, the thinner and weaker they get. Your legs get “skinny” or bony because the Type II fibers are hibernating.
Spindly legs are okay for horses.
Type II fibers need certain kinds of exercise to maintain their vitality. Exercise that forces them to wake up.
You have two choices.
And they’re both hard work because you have to earn your health. Your body isn’t going to rollover and just give it to you.
You can use a heavy load and move that load as fast as you can (which won’t be very fast since the load is heavy) or you can use a lighter load and move faster.
Both methods will snap Type II fibers to attention like a bugle call at sunrise.
The more muscle you use at one time, the better.
Instead of sitting on a machine and pushing against a weight stack, get on your feet like either of these (password is fusiontribe):
In either drill, you can choose lighter loads and faster speeds or heavier loads and slower speeds. Twelve to fifteen repetitions with two to three sets a couple days per week. The great thing is you’re calling all hands on deck with these drills. Lots of muscles have to go to work and that means a lot of brain power too.
By itself, strengthening is a good addition to your longevity strategy but to boost it even more, your lifestyle should be one that is associated with longevity: what you eat, drink, your stress levels, activity, socialization, and general happiness.
Here’s the good news. Get off your butt and start working on getting stronger and watch what happens to you. If you stick with it, things will change. They just have to. And as a result, your strength improves, your lifestyle improves and so does your longevity.
Here’s to living long and well.