A big part of our mission at Bang Fitness is to take down barriers to lifelong exercise habits that will keep you SAF (the S stands for spry) well into old age. Part of this requires filtering through all of the information online, which means there’s a whole lot to filter through.
The challenge is that most of the health and fitness information out there is being produced by young, good-looking people. I like looking at them. You probably like looking at them. And the internet at large definitely likes looking at them. But that doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about.
Let me give you an example:
A ripped 23-year-old with good genetics wants to share their workout secrets. Great, there is value in that. But their advice is only going to be helpful for a very select group of people – it ‘s pretty much the same thing as a trust fund kid wanting to share their wealth accumulation strategies. Maybe there’s wisdom in there. Maybe just luck. Either way, we’ll need a longer timeline to determine whether they’re worth listening to.
We need to seek out better advice than, “Have the right parents.”
A smarter place to look is the opposite end of the age continuum. Who is still physically robust in their 60s and beyond? What are they doing? Lifespan isn’t always correlated with quality of life, so it’s important to be discerning. Instead, let’s try looking at something I’m going to call “healthspan.” Who is living well? Who is strong, mobile, mentally agile, and physically durable? Masters athletes–folks who compete in sports at 35 and (well) beyond–can tell us a lot.
Most people peak in their 30s and then abruptly drop off in terms of performance. Masters athletes, on the other hand, show a much slower decline. This isn’t just on the track or in the gym, though. They also enjoy a shorter (later) period of morbidity - in other words, a decline in vital function starts far later in life.
Here’s Charles Eugster shattering the 200m world record (for his age group) at 95 years old.
Did Charles run at a blistering speed? The fact that he could complete this run at all at his age puts him in a very select group of humans. Most guys his age can’t even walk 200 meters without resting. So, while Charles’ world-record sprint is impressive in its own right, it also hints at what’s beneath the surface: he was able to train consistently to accomplish this feat. It speaks volumes about his general health and function.
When we look at the rates of illness among masters athletes versus the general population, this trend is confirmed. Very fit people in their 80s have similar rates to sedentary people in their 50s. In case you think I’m painting too rosy a picture, they’ll die too. But they’ll have enjoyed a much richer physical life along the way. That’s worth emulating.
I don’t know about you but I want to live my final years out a lot more like the Golden Girls
Better healthspan also starts with sitting less. Here’s the bad news (according to several studies, including this one: there is a very real relationship between sitting time and dying. Long periods of sitting put you at risk for chronic disease–no matter how active you are outside those periods. Sitting for six hours per day (compared to three) significantly elevates our risk of death.
I’m writing this sitting down and it’s honestly freaking me out a little bit.
So, how do you reverse-engineer a longer healthspan? As the saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Start by making time to move. From then, you can layer in density and intensity. The framework for movement has to be in place first, though. I described the components that go into an ideal workout structure a few weeks ago. Feel free to email me if you don’t have that one.
Wishing you many years of physical health. And perhaps the opportunity to move into a community of sassy, sexy seniors.
P.S. Thank you for being a friend