The Science and Art of Longevity, by Dr. Peter Attia
Because of our ingrained fear of mortality, our day-to-day health focus tends to be short-sighted. We live as if we will never get older, dreading our birthdays as if our age alone is the thing keeping us young or making us “old”.
According to Dr. Peter Attia’s book, “Outlive, The Science and Art of Longevity” this lack of foresight and preparation ages us exponentially. He says that by embracing our inevitable aging process and training for it like a decathlon, we will not only extend our chronological age, but we will extend the cognitive, emotional, and physical quality of our lives longer. Instead of spending time at the doctor’s office, leading sedentary lifestyles, and in cognitive decline, we can live more vibrant, connected, and functional lives longer.
In order to become, as Attia puts it, a “kick-ass 100-year-old,” we have to train as if we’ll actually get there. His book, “Outlive, The Art and Science Of Longevity”. encourages us to consider the ten most important physical tasks we want to be able to do for the rest of our lives and then train to do those things—a concept he’s coined the “Centenarian Decathlon.”
Here’s a sampling of Attia’s 100-year decathlon list:
• Hike 1.5 miles on a hilly trail
• Get up off the floor under your own power, using a maximum of one arm for support
• Pick up a young child off the floor
• Carry two five-pound bags of groceries for five blocks
• Lift a twenty-pound suitcase into the overhead compartment of a plane
• Balance on one leg for thirty seconds, eyes open (bonus points: eyes closed, fifteen seconds)
• Have sex
• Climb four flights of stairs in three minutes
• Open a jar
• Do thirty consecutive jump-rope skips
Attia says that the items on his list are personal, and ours should be, too. Consider what we want to be able to do, and what we are willing to give up and go from there. For example, if hiking a mile and a half is not important to you, maybe tennis is your go-to.
“The single most powerful item in our preventive tool kit is exercise, which has a two-pronged impact on Alzheimer’s disease risk: it helps maintain glucose homeostasis, and it improves the health of our vasculature”
― Peter Attia MD, Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity
Attia argues the methods we need to train for life can be broken down into four key pillars:
Stability/Balance: Attia argues strength is important, but stability/balance training should come first. Why? Stability is the secret sauce that allows you to create the most force in the safest manner possible. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to stability training because it’s about targeting your body’s individual areas of weakness.
Strength: After the age of 30, sarcopenia (or muscle loss) kicks in. Without regular strength training, we can lose as much as three to eight percent of muscle mass per decade. This slows down our metabolism and decreases our strength and functional ability to complete daily tasks with ease.
Attia says, “Think of strength training as a form of retirement savings. Just as you want to retire with enough money saved up to sustain you for the rest of your life, you want to reach older age with enough of a “reserve” of muscle to protect you from injury and allow you to continue to pursue the activities you enjoy,” says Attia. The larger reserve you build now, the better off you’ll be for the long haul.
Aerobic efficiency : According to Dr Attia, “Cardio, Zone 2 training, builds a foundation for anything else you do in life. It also plays a crucial role in preventing chronic disease by improving the health, efficiency, and flexibility of your mitochondria—which decline with age. Any aerobic activity performed at a low intensity—somewhere between 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate—is good as long as it’s an activity you can maintain for well over 45 minutes. Attia suggests a total of three hours per week—or four 45-minute sessions—is the minimum dose; but, more is better.
Push your anaerobic limits: We need to be aerobically fit enough to go far at slow speeds and anaerobically fit enough to go not so far at fast speeds; strong enough to carry groceries, kids, a suitcase, or laundry; and have the stability to avoid falling (or be strong enough to brush it off when you do).
“Peak cardiorespiratory fitness, measured in terms of VO2 max, is perhaps the single most powerful marker for longevity,” says Attia. “The payoff of increasing your VO2 max is that it makes you functionally younger. After the age of 25, your VO2 max drops by 10 percent per decade—and by as much as 15 percent after the age of 50. Anything that works a large number of muscles, and can send your heart rate through the roof is ideal…and Mojo is just the ticket!
When we keep having to pull people out of the river, maybe we should focus more on keeping them from falling into the river in the first place.
Additional Quotes From Dr. Attia’s book,”Outlive, The Science and Art of Longevity”
“Longevity itself, and healthspan in particular, doesn’t really fit into the business model of our current healthcare system…Nearly all the money flows to treatment rather than prevention—and when I say “prevention,” I mean prevention of human suffering.
Health insurance companies won’t pay a doctor very much to tell a patient to change the way he eats, or to monitor his blood glucose levels in order to help prevent him from developing type 2 diabetes. Yet insurance will pay for this same patient’s (very expensive) insulin after he has been diagnosed. Similarly, there’s no billing code for putting a patient on a comprehensive exercise program designed to maintain her muscle mass and sense of balance while building her resistance to injury. But if she falls and breaks her hip, then her surgery and physical therapy will be covered.
“WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE HEART IS GOOD FOR THE BRAIN. That is, vascular health (meaning low inflammation, and low oxidative stress) is crucial to brain health. WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE LIVER (AND PANCREAS) IS GOOD FOR THE BRAIN. Metabolic health is crucial to brain health.
“I never won a fight in the ring;
I always won in preparation. —MUHAMMAD ALI”
― Peter Attia MD, Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity