There are a whole variety of things we can do to extend our lifespan, or at the very least, greatly improve the chances of living longer. Much longer. But I would like to touch on the one thing that we can do starting today, that is all but guaranteed to add years to our lives. That's exercise.
One of the most important tests, and one of the earliest indicators of aging, is the balance test - standing on one foot for 30 seconds and so forth. According to Ferrucci, that fine sense of balance is one of the first things to go.
It may not seem like a big deal, but its ripple effect is felt literally for the rest of your life. As our balance weakens, we compensate by widening our stance, so to speak, placing our feet farther apart so as to provide a more stable platform. But this wider stance, in turn, makes walking and running much less efficient than our narrow, youthful stride. As a result, we waste energy, and slow down even more. This is ultimately why walking speed - and walking efficiency - are so important. - From Spring Chicken by Bill Gifford
Mobility is the key to survival.
If you talk to almost anyone who is in the advanced age group, there is one thing that they will tell you as to why they are not as active as they used to be. It is the fall that they sustained. The story is almost identical - "I used to run, hike, or bike so many miles per day, and then one day I fell. This might be down the stairs, off a curb, or slipping on a wet floor, but whatever it was, it laid them up for an extended period of time, and then, best case scenario, is that they got back to exercising but just could never get 100 percent healed, and ultimately failed to ever get back to their former condition. But for many, the fall actually leads to a near or complete cessation of exercise altogether.
That's when they utter the "self-prophesizing" words - "I guess I am just getting too old for this." If age wasn't a good enough excuse to quit before, it certainly is now. Understand something, I do not wish to belittle those that have gone through this, and in many cases, the fall is truly devastating and results in injuries that are difficult or even impossible to recover from.
But what if there were a way that we could avoid, or at least greatly reduce the chances of this happening to us? Well, there is.
Building strength in the upper legs and the hips is the single most effective way to:
- Prevent the fall in the first place. In that initial moment of the fall when we lose our balance, having the ability to react faster and stronger could very well mean the difference between regaining our balance and losing it.
- Minimize the effects (the damage) done if you do fall. Let's face it, it's not the fall that hurts you, it's the impact of the fall that does the damage. Having a stronger, denser musculo-skeletal system can be the difference between breaking bones and bruising them, spraining ligaments and tearing them.
- Reduce recovery time from the fall and your overall condition afterward. If we do fall, and we do break or tear something, how we recover will be the difference maker. No matter how good a condition you are in, recovery from this kind of fall will set you back. It is the level from where the setback occurs that can be the difference between making a full recovery and just throwing in the towel.
Strength For Balance
Building strength in the upper legs and hips will also help improve our balance, which in turn, will help us keep our gait narrow, which will keep our stride long and smooth, which will help keep up our running/jogging/walking pace up, which will help keep our cardio-respiratory system chugging along, which will extend the mileage that our hearts can give us (but that's another post).
Killing Two Birds
The really cool thing is that by committing to a strength training regimen, you get two lifespan extenders in one! You build the strength to avoid or eliminate the effects of a fall and you develop the improved balance to help keep up your pace of mobility. And like Dr. Ferrucci says - this is the earliest indicator of aging.
There are many things that I am going to encourage those of you who are joining me on this journey to do, but two of the most important and most resisted are strength training and running (or intense cardio). When it comes to, not just adding years to your life, but life to your years, these two are crucial.
Shortly, I will be releasing a couple videos on what kinds of exercises you can do to get started, but in the meantime, just get moving. Go for a walk, or a hike, or a jog. And do some squats or squat-thrusts. Doing something, anything, is a great start. And whatever you do, it doesn't have to be perfect, because, hey, you are going to be doing these things and more for a long, long, time!
Lastly, I don't know if all of this will truly defeat aging, or just trick the heck out of it, but whatever it is, it beats sitting around and accepting the inevitable. And sure is a lot more funner!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and I look forward to discussing more with you next time.
Take care and I will see you out there!