Focus on the Basics for a Longer, Healthier Life

That topic is SO BORING!

You mean, no “cleanse”, no “special diet”, no “magic pill”, no “super-tea”, no “daily facebook or Instagram post-worthy gimmick or single exercise that’ll save the world”? Nope. Nothing at all sexy to drag you into this post. But I do hope you’ll hang out, because every day, this resonates…it shows its results-producing face…and you can’t deny it. The basics always work: eat to keep your weight normal, exercise to get stronger, sleep well and enough, commune/socialize, and play. 1, 2, 3, 4…so simple – so boring! HAHAHA!

This past year we have seen more and more studies elucidating how muscle mass or lean body mass is directly related to living longer. It’s true. Stay sedentary and die sooner. I mean…basically, that’s what science says. Stay active, be strong…live longer.  I think I’ll take the latter option, please!

We also saw that not just being stronger, not just carrying more muscle mass is beneficial, but staying leaner and carrying less body fat does the same thing! Being leaner is correlated to living longer too.  Go figure! I’m hoping if you’re one of our athletes, that you’re catching my drift: Get your sh#t together and clean up that lifestyle!

We’re currently a box of mature “grand- masters” athletes – we’re on the back 9 (if we’re over 50 we’re on the back 9…don’t anyone go getting all offended by that!) and with this position in life, we’re thinking about health as we get older. We want independence from assisted living, independence from being tied to doctor’s visits, independence from medications…this is what we’re speaking to. While increasing lean muscle mass is important (train!), and lowering body fat is important (clean up your diet and your portions), there’s more to it.

Howard Luks, MD, an orthopedic surgeon, just further clarified that while we know the issues we speak of above are true, they’re deeper than we think. And by deeper I mean metabolically deeper. Above, we say higher muscle mass is linked to a longer life – think about it – the stronger you are the less frail you are and therefore the more you are able to do, the more independent you are, and if you fall, you’re likely to be able to get up and keep going. This is part of the picture, but not the whole. Also, above we say the leaner you are the longer you’ll live – meaning if you’re carrying extra body fat, you might die sooner. By diving “deeper” here we know that excess body fat is a key factor in most (if not all) metabolic diseases: heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure, etc.  These conditions shorten our lifespan. So there’s that connection (in a simple nutshell) – higher body fat most likely shortens lifespan due to the metabolic effects of carrying more body fat.   Back to “deeper” again…underlying the point of “being stronger” and having more muscle is a metabolic symphony of anti-inflammatory processes that a) keep pain at bay, and b) improve the health of our bodies and joints. Literally – exercise can benefit inflammation in the joint positively, and being sedentary can adversely affect inflammation in a joint, both by activating different cytokines in the body (Cytokines are proteins involved in cell signaling). .  Exercise is noted in Dr. Luks’ post below to further support that it’s therapeutic for arthritis! How many of us have had pain (knee, back, ankle, hip, wrist or shoulder) that we were told was arthritis and we should lay off exercise to that area? Most of us I’m sure! Well, here’s a medical professional who treats arthritis and is active who is promoting exercise and strength training for arthritis joints because of the benefits metabolically to that area. #mindblown….but finally!

Back to the title of the post, get your basics in check – as mentioned above. It’s not fancy, it’s not expensive, but it’s essential.  We live in a world where if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. So if you don’t want to eat healthy because it’s not fun, it’s not Chick-fil-A and it’s not BoneFish’s Bang Bang Shrimp, then those are your choices and you can do what you want to do. But you also will be the owner of the consequences of those actions.

“I like sugar. I like glue. I like staying up late. I like alcohol. I hate to exercise.” Like I said – we live in a world where you have choices…probably too many opportunities for bad choices if you ask me.  The statements are from the primitive part of the brain. The dopamine-releasing immediate gratification centers of the brain.  You have a choice to fight this, especially as it relates to your diet and overly or highly processed foods. Choose or lose…right?

With your training, do remember “the basics”. Squat, Press, Hinge (Deadlift), Push (up), Pull (up), Sit up…the basics. Do them well. Strive to perform them well – never put load above form. The basics matter.  And don’t forget capacity, endurance, and “cardio”. It’s all important. Do the basics well and you’ll never regret it!

With your sleep, do this well..or else. It’s one more lifestyle choice that’s linked to chronic disease if you don’t get it right. There’s a great read on the NY Times Best Seller list called Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. We highly recommend it.

Get healthy, stay healthy.


Muscle mass index as a predictor of longevity in older adults, PubMed

Fat Tissue and Long Life, PubMed

Contrary to earlier findings, excess body fat in elderly decreases life expectancy, Science Daily

Exercise and Knee Arthritis Pain: The Science of Why It Works, Howard Luks