Rapamycin, mTor, 24-48-72 hour water fasts, going vegan, carnivore….the list of extreme interventions goes on and on. Rarely do you think of the long-term, sustainable approach when it comes to reaching your goals. In today’s social media world, the rational, long term approach isn’t sexy and doesn’t capture one’s attention in a limited allotted time. The intrigue of finding new and innovative ways can be enticing but more often than not unnecessary. Below I will speak on what I believe to be the pillars of expanding quality of life while potentially increasing quantity.
Quantity vs. Quality
Expanding the years of life for the sake of a longer life in and of itself has little to no benefit for most, it’s the quality within those years that most will agree matter. An unfortunate reality is that although the quantity of life is increasing, the functional quality is not. A functioning body capable of meeting the demands of your lifestyle at that time is essential to living an enjoyable life and is a moving and ever changing target. One’s training, or lack there of, is usually tailored toward a lifestyle or goal they are wishing to pursue. In your adolescent years this may include sports training prior to more “specialized” training for those individuals who continue to pursue their athletic goals. Shortly following the “athletic years” is a cross roads for most. Go down the path of continued exercise and stay fit or discontinue and enjoy the lesser demanding physical lifestyle. Perhaps this crossroads should, and in many cases does, begin with an evaluation of goals, priorities and newly desired lifestyle that optimizes one’s time, experiences and capability to lead the life they wish.
Movement Capacity > Any Other Single Component
Despite social media’s new longevity craze, I personally, and I think many others would agree, don’t believe that intricate dieting strategies, motivation/perspective enhancing techniques or any combination of “newly realized” strategies will move the needle all that much. As someone who has sustained injuries through the years, it is during that down time/rehabilitation period that you realize lack of movement capabilities is without a doubt the most impactful health detriment. All other health aspects are built upon a solid movement capability foundation. By eliminating this foundation, a negative domino effect on other aspects begin to take place. The obvious counteract to this is first to remain injury free to the best of your ability. Second, to enhance “resilience” to your individual level needed through training and/or daily activity.
As we age we generally hear of two major problematic “events” and work to avoid these. The first being risk of falls, and the second being metabolic syndrome. The former is associated with strength and balance, the later with energy expenditure. You are aiming for two goals; enhance your ability to move and monitor your caloric balance. Both of these allow for interpersonal preference and high variability of methods to improve each area. An important aspect to consider is your preferred method of accomplishing your goals. This will improve adherence and ultimately increase the likelihood of reaching and sustaining your goals.
Mental Health > All
Mental health precedes and has a direct impact on every decision you make, including other health related decisions. It is impossible to say from the outside looking in what is a “healthy” or “unhealthy” practice one may incorporating into their own life. It is the relationship with that practice, rooted in their mental health, that allows anything to be inherently healthy or unhealthy. Things such as moderation, balance, perspective and big picture mentality come to mind when analyzing a decision in both the short and long term. Allow for balanced decision making to enhance current quality of life without robbing quality years later in life. On one end of the spectrum, seemingly healthy outlets can become unhealthy practices depending on the reason for using…exercise addiction, an unhealthy relationship with food, etc are real and not uncommon factors to consider. On the other hand, more explicitly destructive outlets such as drugs, alcohol and various chemical dependencies are all too commonly used as coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, diseases of despair are on the rise, which has never before been seen in human history. By simply practicing a bit of self awareness, you can begin to gain an insight into the “why” behind your actions and move forward appropriately.
There are three common components of quality of life commonly found among individuals: 1) Having a purpose, usually tied to a goal, that gives meaning to your decision 2) Belonging to a community: Organized sports, religion, gyms, personal hobbies…the list is endless. A community of like-minded people with common interests pursuing goals together. A support system, a group of individuals who you can relate to. An aspect of life where you feel most like yourself. 3) Feeling accepted: Easy to understand, difficult to describe, acceptance is desired by each one of us. Not having to pretend or play a role, but to truly be yourself and feeling comfortable in doing so. An all to common reality is that most allow mental health to sit on the back burner and prioritize other areas of health above it. An individualized strategy to address each area will pay exponentially throughout life in both mentally and physically.
Nature vs. Nurture (Environmental/Communal Factors)
If you have ever heard of the “Blue Zones” you may be aware that they actually do not have all that much in common in regards to diet and exercise strategy. These healthy groups, usually referenced due to life expectancy, of individuals across the world don’t have any unique restrictions, cutting edge diet or supplement intervention or advanced training programs. They do, however, have what appears to be all there basics covered. They appear to live a balanced, moderate lifestyle full of daily activity surrounded by a community that they are continually interacting with. Stress management also appears to be a priority within their lives, commonly over moderate alcohol consumption and/or daily breaks and naps. You can refer to April 22nd’s Monday Motivator that highlights the 9 features within the Blue Groups.
Sustainability Of Previous Year’s Efforts
What major pillars of health will pay dividends later in life? Which early life health investments will your reap the rewards of? To answer these questions, it is important to be aware of the biological facts of life and normal aging. When you understand these variables, you can accurately attempt to combat and/or slow this natural decline, ultimately equating to a greater number of quality days. Big ticket items such as carrying lean muscle mass, maintaining a low BMI/low body fat, including mentally stimulating practices and a well-versed, inclusive healthy approach to “dieting” are going to address these factors. The most crucial concept to understand and appreciate is that there is no one best way. By simply choosing one of the numerous options you prefer, which can and will likely change from time to time, is going to increase the likelihood of sustainable, consistent efforts. That’s where the magic happens, a little at a time…as long as you don’t quit.
Some general guidelines are the following: Adopt a low risk, high reward workout routine/system that focuses on lean muscle mass gain and elevated heart rate. By doing so, you improve your functional capacity and retain the needed muscle mass that allows a wide variety of metabolic and functional benefits both today and in days to come. Within your dietary preference, be sure to include sufficient protein and fiber. Additional attention to fruits, vegetables and overall variety ensure you have all your bases covered. Allow the natural eb and flow of lifestyle and life demands to happen without unnecessary pressure or short sighted thinking. By incorporating personal preference to the above, the return to activity is much higher and ultimately yields much more benefit.
“Lifespan means nothing if you can’t preserve robust physical performance across the spectrum of life’s essential and recreational activities. It’s time to shift the focus to optimizing (& preserving) training adaptations.” – Alan Aragon
Effect Of Previous Year’s Demands
Your early years, particularly your athletic-based years, can and likely will have an effect on your body over time. This is natural and not always negative. When the demands exceed the capabilities, you may begin to feel the negative effects associated with those endeavors. After all, it is the experiences that make life worth living. The old adage “the juice is worth the squeeze” comes to mind when saying the risk/reward balance with any decision.
An important aspect toward diet and exercise to consider when post-athletic years are your current goals. Too often individuals either discontinue training or continue to train and diet the same they did as athletes until they can no longer sustain physically and/or mentally. A powerful statement comes to mind regarding this specific issue: “The wise man trains for optimal performance and health dependent upon his goals. Once that has been accomplished he then switches to maintenance” – Dr. Stuart McGill There are unlimited amount of regressions/progressions/varieties to any workout regime tailored to meet anyone’s specific needs and/or physical limitations. Incorporating lower impact, varying frequencies and training modalities, and using previous year’s experience to adjust to your individualized needs are valuable tools to continuing to not only maintain previous years positive training adaptations but also continue to enhance health and fitness while doing so.
Cover The Basics -> Implement Personal Preferences
Once a personalized fitness routine has been established, the more highly nuanced strategies can be implemented dependent upon the individual’s personal preference. Things such as diet interventions/methods (fasting, caloric restriction, organic, etc.) and supplementation should be viewed as potential health/longevity aids and it is important to realize that they are not the most necessary. Failing to understand the big key player for long term health can lead to giving higher importance and priority which may come with additional pressure/stress to adhere to and ultimately lead to burn out.
The interplay of physical activity, nutritional habits and overall lifestyle are unique to every individual. The combination of knowledge and self-awareness will allow one to tailor and meet their specific need and preferences at any given time point throughout life. This relationship is dynamic and like any other quality, long lasting relationship will have ebs and flows. The important aspect is to remain cognizant of is the to overarching goal/destination you are moving toward….an active, enjoyable life with a body capable of meeting each stage of life’s endeavors. You’re long term health status is going to stem from a healthy relationship with all these healthy outlets. Being disciplined but not obsessive, keeping perspective and not becoming overly controlling, and enjoying the process that can be unique to your goals and lifestyle are important pillars to keep in mind. Diet and exercise are just pieces to the puzzle of an overall healthy lifestyle.
The foundation of pain free capacity to meet your lifestyle demands is the pillar of a quality life and the catalyst to graceful aging and dare I say “longevity”.