“Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.”
― Arnold Schwarzenegger
Have I mentioned that I hate the gym? I’ve never liked it. It’s always been something that I half-heartedly do because I know I should. Some years I’m better at it than others, but it’s never been a real habit. I’ve been more diligent the last six months because I started seeing changes in my balance and coordination. But lately I’ve been slacking off due to my reoccurring stomach issues. It’s hard to be motivated to go lift heavy stuff when your stomach is all queasy. But yesterday I watched something that (hopefully) changed my mindset forever.
I stumbled on several podcasts by Dr Peter Attia and Layne Norton. They discuss many topics, but one of them was all-cause mortality and hazard ratios – the likelihood of you dying of something. A study was done of 122,000 people with an average age of 53. The study did a Vo2 max test on the subjects and ranked them into five categories – Low, Below Average, Above Average, High, Elite. The study then correlated mortality rates to the Vo2 rankings. The results shocked me.
Just improving from the Low category to Below Average was a 50% reduction in mortality over a decade. Improve to one more category, Above Average, resulted in a nearly 70% reduction in mortality! Being in the lowest category of Vo2 max carries a higher risk of mortality than coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Wow.
I’m sure I always kinda knew that having a great cardiovascular system would be a good thing as you got older. But then they followed up with a very similar look at the correlation of lean muscle mass and mortality. Past age 70, the hazard ratio of having very little lean muscle mass is greater than smoking! It turns out falls are the greatest cause of accidental death in the last decades of life. As a nurse, I can attest to this. A fall resulting in a broken hip is a near certain death sentence within 6 months to a year amongst the elderly.
So, in a nutshell being weak, fat, and having low Vo2 max is a near guarantee of an early death.
Seeing this was enough for me. I dragged my queasy-ass stomach to the gym and picked up a bunch of heavy shit for an hour. And I’m going to do it again today. And I’m going to start maximizing my Zone 2 training. One of the things that was said in the podcast is that past age 60-65 you’re realistically not going to gain muscle. The best you can hope for is to maintain what you have. So in the decade before that your goal should be to pack on as much lean muscle mass as possible.
I’ve missed out on much of that window to build muscle and strength due to general sloth and love of nachos. But it’s not too late. Every single percentage gain in lean muscle mass I can make in the next few years is an additional hedge against that hazard ratio. It finally sunk in.
Every single day of doing nothing, sitting, not moving, watching TV, gaining weight – is subtracting a day from the other end.
Think about that. Is skipping being active today because you don’t feel like it, worth dying one day earlier? I calculated out, based upon living to age 85, how many weeks I have left. About 1,600. That’s not very much when you think about it that way. It’s time to maximize those weeks to ensure I have as many as possible.