There’s a cool new trend going on in medicine right now. We’ve always known exercise is important but new research is showing there’s a specific type and intensity of activity needed to promote overall health. After years of fitness being equated to cardio and endurance, strength is making a huge comeback. The rediscovery of resistance training has most significantly impacted middle aged adults. Sadly, strength training has historically been viewed as a young man’s game. However, the new body of research suggests that everybody who can lift weights should. Incorporating strength training into any exercise regime can slow, arrest or even reverse many of the degenerative effects of aging: loss of muscle and strength, brittle bones, sloppy ligaments, dysfunctional joints, and decrease in mobility and balance. All of this results in a poor quality of life.
Dr. Johnathon Baker, an emergency room physician turned personal trainer, wrote an excellent book, The Barbell Prescription (available on Amazon). In this post, we’ll break down some of his book and provide supporting evidence that exercise is not only critical to fighting aging but it’s crucial to our quality of life. It is the prescription to the aging process and living a full life. Adding strength training and conditioning to your exercise regime will have you not only fighting aging, but you’ll also improve your overall health, get strong, and look better naked. If you’re looking for an answer to how to slow the aging process or “why should I bother exercising” keep reading…
The State of Aging & Exercise as Medicine
The current aging process has never been so good. Never have so many people embarked on their fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh decade in so much comfort. In such a world, where our physical ailments are so easily addressed with pharmaceuticals and binge-watching Netflix constitutes a hobby, we easily dismiss the idea of exercise as medicine. In our society we typically consider “drug” synonymous with “medicine”. But drugs don’t address the underlying diseases caused by the aging process – exercise does. It improves musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, metabolic, cellular, neurological and phycological health with little to no side effects. The dose and type of exercise can be specifically applied to each individuals’ abilities and goals. Exercise doesn’t make doctors and pharmaceutical companies’ money though; and exercise isn’t the easy way out. Exercise requires YOU taking responsibility for yourself and your choices, getting off your butt and finally saying ENOUGH. At Pure Life Fitness we believe not only is exercise medicine, but a supportive gym community enables our members to achieve their goals and improve their overall quality of life.
The Sick Aging Phenotype & Metabolic Syndrome
Aging is inevitable and our society spends billions each year fighting it. We all know exercise is good for us, but it’s also one the BEST ways to combat the aging process. The biggest challenge to aging is each of our observable characteristics and traits – otherwise known as our phenotypes. This is different than our traits that our encoded in our DNA and passed down from our parents, such as eye and hair color, which are known as our genotypes. A good example of this is identical twins – they have the same genotype but can have very different phenotypes.
Now that we have the basics covered, let’s take a deeper look at what differences in our phenotypes lead to a life of inactivity, disease and decreased quality of life – the “Sick Aging Phenotype”. The Sick Aging Phenotype is comprised of 4 parts, as described in great detail in Dr. Bakers book (p. 7-10) but summarized below.
To illustrate the effects of metabolic syndrome on your quality of life, Dr. Baker describes two identical brothers: Wellness Will and Phat Phil. While sharing the same genotype, they have vastly different phenotypes by their 50’s. Will is a wellness nut, exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting yearly check-ups. He has a much younger girlfriend he hikes with on the weekends. He has a great sex life. Barring any major catastrophe Will lives well into his 80’s.
Phil on the other hand, is struggling. Along the way, he picked up smoking, drinking and consuming huge quantities of junk food. His hobbies include sitting on his ass, copious amounts of Netflix and stuffing his face with Door Dash. Unlike his brother, he’s 45% body fat. He hasn’t gotten laid in years. He has Type 2 Diabetes, arthritis, messed up serum lipids, and high blood pressure. He takes a cocktail of medications each day to mitigate the symptoms of his underlying disease states. At 58, he dies in an ICU from a lesion in his coronary artery. This is the “Sick Aging Phenotype”.
Phil’s slow, miserable, ugly decline was a culmination of a few interconnected processes. It started like most of us, a little weight gain here… some loss of lean muscle mass there… slight decline in exercising frequency and capacity…minor elevation in blood sugar and blood pressure – eh, no big deal. Buy some bigger pants, justify the lack of exercise with thousands of excuses, and take medications to address the blood sugar and pressure. Viola! However, over time, those little processes evolve into clinical disease. These diseases impact physical health, mental health, and quality of life.
What started with a small refusal to incorporate adequate exercise into his life, Phil now needs medications to manage the symptoms of his diseases. He’s lost his independence. No longer can he hop off the couch and play ball with his kids in the backyard without being winded. He needs help at the pet store because he cannot lift the dog food bag by himself. He can’t carry his sleeping children to their beds. His body aches constantly from lack of movement. In short, he’s a mess… and one you see everyday, in increasing frequency, in our society.
There are some key points to this story: What started small and innocently enough developed into full blown chronic disease. And while Phil’s story is extreme, it is common. Sure, some people with metabolic syndrome live well into their seventies. All that means is they get to suffer with their diseases and lack of quality of life longer than Phil did who croaked at 58. Others will age without metabolic syndrome, but without intervention they still face loss of muscle mass, loss of bone density and overall weakness. With atrophied muscles and brittle bones, they aren’t hardy enough to withstand the stressors of daily life. As such, they lose their independence and reduce their quality of life. This phenomenon is also known as “skinny fat”. These people have normal weight, but the ratio of lean mass (bone and muscle) to fat isn’t healthy. In this case, there is still a risk of metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Even without the presence of hypertension, diabetes and heart disease the skinny fat aren’t leading the full and active life they could be if they incorporated some resistance training and conditioning. We are living longer but in a less active way. Our inactivity breeds inactivity, which causes disease and decrease in quality of life. When do you say, enough? When is it time to address this slow-motion train wreck and take responsibility for your health?
So where does this leave us? If you’ve stuck with me to now, thank you and please don’t be discouraged! The evidence is clear – aging results in a variety of disease states; some can be mitigated by proper exercise.
The PLF Community Enables Success
If you’re ready to finally take responsibility for yourself, slow or reverse the aging process, get strong and look better naked, come check us out at Pure Life Fitness. We are a unique facility, but our approach is simple. We combine the best of the basics in conditioning, kettle bell, barbell, TRX and kickboxing training models to produce effective, fun and brutal work outs that will keep you engaged and prove you are stronger than you think. Our facility may lack the bells and whistles found at big box gyms, but you will not find any shortage of kettle bells, plates, TRX, and kickboxing bags. We are an unfiltered community of passionate people who support each other to go that extra bit, complete that extra rep, add extra weight to the bar, pick up a bigger ball or move faster. We are committed to not only seeing ourselves succeed but every person who walks through our doors. We are authentic. We know our classes work and see the results in our loyal members every day.
Where we lack finesse, you’ll find friendship.
Where we lack bells and whistles, you’ll find tried and true equipment that produces results in every person on this planet when executed correctly and consistently.
Where we lack the latest fad, you’ll find science-based programming and coaching that works.
Come get stronger with us. You’ll be happy you did.
Sullivan, J. (2016). Barbell prescription: Strength Training for Life After forty. Aasgaard Company, The.
Fulginiti, “The Millennium in Infectious Diseases”
National Vital Statistics Report 2002; Ogden et al., “Prevalence of Obesity”; Park et al., “The Metabolic Syndrome,” 427-436.
Park et al., “The Metabolic Syndrome” 427-436; Johnson and Sundquist, “Change in Lifestyle Factors,” 1073-1080; van Dam et al., “Combined Impact of Lifestyle Factors”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories
Batsis et al., “Normal Weight Obesity and Mortality” 1592-1598.