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Unlocking the Fountain of Youth: Mastering Training Principles for Longevity

Unlocking the Fountain of Youth: Mastering Training Principles for Longevity

Most of us are looking to live a long, happy, and healthy life. But how exactly does one maximize their potential for a long lifespan? Even if you can live longer, how do you ensure you uphold good health so that you can maintain their independence for longer? These two questions are important to ask when considering what lifestyle practices will set you up for a better future.

There are countless ways to increase your chances of longevity. For ideas on how to maintain your youth, look no further than professional athletes, particularly powerlifters, weightlifters, sprinters, and CrossFit athletes. These individuals engage in a healthy lifestyle accompanied by training practices that improve their overall health and wellness. This article will discuss some of these training and lifestyle principles that you can begin incorporating into your everyday life, maximizing your chance of longevity.

Eating a Proper Diet

Weightlifters and powerlifters are focused in on one major thing: bodybuilding. While much of this practice involves getting in several hours at the gym a week and lifting heavy, these individuals must also consider what they are putting into their body. Several things outside of the gym contribute to their ability to gain lean muscle, including what they eat.

The optimal diet for those looking to put on the muscle would involve high amounts of protein. For bodybuilders, experts recommend consuming between 1.6 to 2.2 grams (g) per kilogram (kg) of weight daily. Ideally, this protein should be distributed across three to six meals daily, with each meal having about 0.4 to 0.55 g/kg. Additionally, it is recommended that protein is consumed within one to two hours of training, both before and after (1).

This high-protein nutrition practice is backed by science, as one study found that increased protein intake was associated with increased longevity. In this study, individuals older than age 65 on a high-protein diet had a 28 percent lower risk of death and a 60 percent lower risk of death from cancer. This is likely because in older age, a higher protein diet helps individuals maintain a healthy weight and avoid frailty (2).

Strength Training

When it comes to keeping healthy, engaging in regular exercise is a no brainer. However, when many of us think of exercise, we think of cardio, such as with running, cycling, or walking. While these are all great ways to get your body moving, there are other forms of exercise that may improve your longevity in ways that cardio does not.

Strength training is an integral part of many athletes’ workout routines. Strength training incorporates weights into your workout, be it using free weights, body weight, or resistance bands. Strength training is important to building and maintaining your muscle strength. As you age, you lose about a quarter of your muscle strength by age 70 and half of your muscle strength by age 90 (3). With decreased muscle strength, your body is weaker, and you may be quicker to lose your independence with older age.

To assess how strength training impacted longevity, one study evaluated health outcomes in adults. In the 16 studies evaluated, results indicated that engaging in muscle-strengthening exercises decreased an individual’s risk of death between 10 to 17 percent. Additionally, it lowered an individual’s chance of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Thus, strength training can be beneficial for more than just athletes. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults engage in muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week (4).

In addition to improving muscle strength, strength training also improves your cardiovascular health. It can be particularly helpful for those with high body fat, as resistance training can lower fat content, creating leaner muscle mass. A balance of both strength training and aerobic exercise can lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), a bad form of cholesterol. Having too high of LDL levels elevates your risk of heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of mortality in the US. Additionally, strength training can increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), a good type of cholesterol (5).

It is easy to start incorporating weight training into your workout routine. You can start by going to the gym, which offers basic weight dumbbells. Additionally, you may also consider purchasing your own weights or resistance bands for use at home. Strength training can also be implemented simply by using your own body weight. There are hundreds of videos online to get you started with some basic exercises.

Increasing Mobility and Flexibility

While you may think that stretching is reserved for athletes, particularly gymnasts, runners, or dancers, it is actually important for everyone. A well-rounded fitness routine should always incorporate an activity to improve flexibility. Flexibility gives your joints a larger range of motion. When you do not stretch, your muscles get shorter and tighter. When in this state, you are putting yourself at higher risk of pain and injury.

Having sufficient range of motion is important to being able to build strength at the gym.  That is why many powerlifters and weightlifters will incorporate yoga or yoga poses into their routine. It also offers a great way to stay active while allowing for muscle recovery.

When it comes to longevity, maintaining flexibility helps to keep your muscles mobile. Maintaining healthy muscles is important to strength and balance, preventing you from falling. Falls are one of the most common causes of death in individuals over the age of 65.

To start increasing flexibility, start by doing some basic stretches daily. The most important muscles to work are those in your lower extremities, such as your hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, and calves. You can also seek out a physical therapist if you are looking for more guidance (6).

Aerobic exercise

While weightlifters and powerlifters are typically more focused on strength training and building muscle mass, many athletes will incorporate some form of aerobic exercise into their routine for the added health benefits. Aerobic exercise, more commonly known as “cardio”, involves workouts that get your heart rate and breathing up. These activities can include things like running, swimming, or biking.

Several studies have evaluated just how cardio can contribute to life expectancy. One study, for example, reports that sports involving aerobic endurance are associated with 4.3 to 8 years additional life expectancy compared to those undergoing regular physical activity (7). Another study evaluating 122,000 people who participated in treadmill exercise tests showed similar results. Engaging in aerobic fitness improved individual longevity, particularly in those over the age of 70. It showed additional benefits in those with high blood pressure (8).

Based on these results, it seems like a no-brainer to add cardio into your routine. Experts recommend incorporating a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week. For added benefit, you could work out 300 minutes (five hours) each week. Ideally, this time should be distributed over the course of several days to ensure you are getting movement in throughout the week (9).

Fasting

Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting, has gained traction as a popular fad diet in recent years. But is there evidence to back the supposed health benefits up? There might be, as a 2008 study indicated that two-day fasts provided a protective effect to healthy cells but not cancer cells after chemotherapy (10). Certain fasting regimens may be able to treat and prevent disease. Research is currently further exploring its effects in cancer, neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, and autoimmunity (11).

A Good Night’s Sleep

When you feel like you do not have enough time in the day, sleep tends to be one of the first things to go to free up more space. However, most serious athletes would not do this because they know the importance of a good night’s rest on the body and their performance. While sleep deficiency may leave you just a little groggy the next day, the implications of sleep deprivation are widespread and may even affect your lifespan.

Inadequate sleep can lead to cardiovascular issues, obesity, diabetes, and more. These health problems increase your risk of death and lower your quality of life. Likewise, sleeping less than five hours each night has been shown to increase your risk of death by up to 15 percent. Knowing the impact of skimping on rest, you should consider getting in the recommended seven to eight hours a night just like major athletes.

Conclusion
In conclusion, maximizing longevity involves a multifaceted approach to health and wellness. Professional athletes, including powerlifters, weightlifters, sprinters, and CrossFit athletes, offer valuable insights into training and lifestyle practices that can contribute to longevity. Things like strength training, aerobic exercise, flexibility, nutrition, and sleep are all major components of leading a healthy lifestyle. Each of these practices have been shown to potentially improve your quality of life while extending your lifespan, allowing you to maintain your youthfulness and independence for longer.

 

 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6680710/
  2. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/protein-consumption-linked-longevity#:~:text=Adults%20in%20the%2050%20to,in%20the%20low%20protein%20group.
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/want-to-live-longer-and-better-do-strength-training
  4. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/56/13/755
  5. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/3-kinds-of-exercise-that-boost-heart-health
  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3395188/
  8. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/better-cardio-fitness-predicts-a-longer-life-study-finds/
  9. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/go-red-get-fit/what-exercise-is-right-for-me#:~:text=Get%20at%20least%20150%20minutes,least%202%20days%20per%20week.
  10. https://gero.usc.edu/2019/04/18/eat-less-live-longer-the-science-of-fasting-and-longevity/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8932957/
Author
David Bauder David J. Bauder, PA-C David Bauder, PA-C, is a certified physician assistant and the assistant medical director at Weight Loss and Vitality in Manassas and Alexandria, Virginia, Washington, DC; and Gaithersburg, MD. He enjoys helping patients optimize their physical and mental health to improve their overall well-being. He earned his physician assistant degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Afterward, he gained admission into the reputable graduate program for physician assistant studies at the University of Nebraska Health Science Center in Omaha. David has over 26 years of experience working as a physician assistant. He’s practiced in podiatry, family medicine, emergency medicine, general surgery, urgent care, and functional medicine.

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