For whatever reason, there’s still a general consensus that cardiovascular fitness is the key to longevity. Perhaps it has something to do with cardio burning calories, and an overall deficit promoting longevity?
Well, aside from it being extremely difficult to reach a caloric deficit via exercise, research suggests that any excessive output is usually filled with more food, and tends to promote an increase in sedentary behaviour. Moreover, going faster, further, and more frequently in an effort to ‘burn,’ actually damages your long-term health. Because, as we discussed in Eat Meat And Stop Jogging, this behaviour produces excess cortisol, free radicals, and inflammation; which increase our risk of degenerative disease and mortality.
The other reason it’s common to think cardio is best for longevity is because it improves our aerobic capacity. Meanwhile, this is an inferior biomarker for longevity that reduces the superior biomarkers when it’s actively and consistently pursued. Predominantly because excess endurance exercise produces a poor Testosterone-to-Cortisol ratio and a shift in muscle fibre type (Type II to Type 1), that results in the same muscle loss experienced with ageing.
Low Muscle = High Mortality
For the 90 million Americans that will be over 65 years of age by 2050, this is usually an eye opener, but it should be a wake-up call for all age groups. As muscle atrophy (loss) starts at the age of 25 and accelerates rapidly if there’s no effort to prevent it.
The leg scans below show the impact from a lack of muscle (dark area) maintenance, and the consistent conversion to fat (white area) over time.
Had the older woman in the scan on the left prioritised strength training when she was a younger woman (the scan on the right), this could have been prevented. Instead, she’ll deal with a weak, frail body that’s prone to falls, fractures and chronic disease. She’ll also struggle with weight management, as this low-muscle physique means a reduced metabolic rate and poor insulin sensitivity. Not only producing a high-fat physique, but raising one’s risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia (cognitive decline), and even cancer.
Also worth noting is that the decline in muscle strength is not only the result of sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass), but it’s because of selective atrophy of the explosive or fast-twitch type II muscle fibres.
Alternatively, a fraction of the time spent trying to build aerobic capacity could have been dedicated to building muscle and strength with resistance training. Preventing the muscle loss associated with ageing and increasing strength, insulin sensitivity, metabolic rate, and even aerobic capacity.
The reason aerobic capacity is correlated with muscle loss is because more muscle means more energy producing mitochondria. So when we stress skeletal muscle with weight, it increases mitochondria and elevates it’s buffering capacity the same way it does after aerobic training. The difference being, weight training doesn’t burn mitochondria-packed muscle; it builds it.
Aerobic training adds mitochondria to existing muscle, while resistance training adds new muscle and increases the mitochondrial number and function of that muscle.
Lift to Last
Along with building metabolically active muscle and leading to comparable improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, here is a quick list of some of the additional benefits attributed to resistance training:
- Improves strength and functional ability (in elderly)
- Reduces risk of heart disease
- Increases HDL cholesterol
- Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes
- Prevents osteoporosis (bone loss) and sarcopenia (muscle loss)
- Improves gastrointestinal health
- Burns visceral fat
- Improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity
- Protects against frailty and metabolic syndrome
- Produces metabolic memory and reverses age-related changes in skeletal muscle
Successful ageing refers to the maintenance of physical and mental well-being and functional independence in the absence of chronic disease. Resistance training supports this, by upregulating the factors associated with muscle growth, downregulating those associated with muscle loss, and improving muscular power and force development – which research suggests is critical for preserving our quality of life as we age (health span).
Never Too Old
As Irwin. H. Rosenberg stated perfectly in 1997 in his paper on Sarcopenia:
”No decline with age is as dramatic or potentially more significant than the decline in lean body mass.”
Although he was also clear in stating that it wasn’t inevitable, and it was never too late. Since the ability to gain and maintain strength and muscle with resistance training is possible whether you’re 40, 18, 27, 51, 32, or 90!
As this study from the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded in 1990:
“Resistance weight training leads to significant gains in muscle strength, size, and functional mobility among frail residents of nursing homes up to 96 years of age.”
In other words, regardless of your age, or current health status (insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, etc.), there are no non-responders to resistance training. The key is starting as early as you can (Now), and making it into a habit (1% Fitness).
Live It NOT Diet! is already ensuring that your muscle stays fed, and now it’s time to make sure it’s primed for growth (anabolic). The 1% Fitness workouts will give you a better-looking body with a maxed out metabolic rate, and the best chance at living a long and disease-free life.