Longevity, Quality of Life and Weightlifting
Lifting weights regularly can definitely add high quality years to your life. I make this statement based on my own experience, observing others, and reading some of the scant literature on longevity.
I make this claim as an 81-year-old who has been into fitness and weightlifting for most of my life. At present I am 5 10 and weigh about 170 lbs. I lift weights 4-5 times a week and run 4-5 times a week. I feel 20-40 years younger, am freaky strong and dont have to take any prescription drugs.
For me, life is fun and exciting. The only doctor I see regularly is the one who understands the mysterious processes that take place under the hood of my car. (Maybe he is not a real doctor?)
Im often stunned by the difference between my life and the lives of many of my age peers. For example, a couple years ago I did a fall while out running. I landed full length on the concrete but quickly popped up. The biggest damage was to my ego since two people saw me do the exquisite flop.
My recovery from this event was to brush pine needles off my shirtand offer some hasty excuse to those who observed my graceful arabesque.
The same week my neighbor who was 5 years younger than I fell getting out of her car. She spent two months in a rehab facility. Earlier in the year a high school classmate had a fall in his home, and he died a month later in the hospital.
Granted the falls may not have been identical, but the point is that having resilient muscle mass always protects you to some degree from the shocks of falls or unanticipated physical accidents in everyday life.
Most of the literature (research and anecdotal) about extending life seems to center on the idea that significant caloric restriction seems to extend life several years. In other words, keeping the fat off appears to (statistically) add years to life.
There does not appear to be any work beyond anecdotal about the benefits of building muscle. I suspect that this is because there are only a few of us around who are in our 80s and still lifting heavy weights regularly. Thus, only a few subjects to study.
However, I can attest from experience that being able to move easily in all ranges of motion, being physically strong and being physically resilient make for a life with literally no limitations.
Having good muscle mass also prevents many degenerative diseases (Type II Diabetes, etc.) that can make day to day living difficult or pure hell.
If someone can be free of high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes you would think that ought to be motivation enough to exercise. Unfortunately, most people will take heroic measures to correct a dire situation when it is upon them but do nothing to prevent that situation from occurring in the first place.
Quality of Life
Living for a long time is not appealing if the quality of your life is lousy. Living to be 90 while on dozens of meds and being in and out of the hospital is something no one would choose.
One of the things that is not often discussed is that when you are in good physical condition you not only look good, but you feel good. People are often surprised when I tell them that Im aware of how I feel on a moment-to-moment basis, and that feeling good is extremely enjoyable.
My friend and colleague Rev. Michael Harris noted that when someone feels good, they are more likely to feel happy. When they have physical pain, they will often be angry.
Constant anger is part of a poor quality of life. Feeling good most of the time makes it much easier to feel happy.
We are all living in the only body we will ever have. This body is the one where we get to experience our entire life. Each of us has the power to do great things for our physical wellbeing. We also have the power to trash our bodies and contribute to having a lousy life.
The choice is to do the difficult things that lead to a good life, or simply succumb to the immediate pleasures of gluttony and sloth. Most readers of this column are committed to doing what they can to best care for the only body each of us will ever have.
It is a great idea to remind others, particularly those you care for, that being fit and strong gives you the best chance to not only have a long life, but also have a high-quality life. Like anything of value achieving this is not easy.
One of my favorite sayings that applies not only in physical fitness, but in all other parts of life is:
When you live easy, life is hard! When you live hard, life is easy – Pavel