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Regular sport and a balanced lifestyle to ensure you have the health to enjoy life in your retirement

Regular sport and a balanced lifestyle to ensure you have the health to enjoy life in your retirement
T

he analogy is striking. A lifestyle consisting of strength training, joyful movement, good sleep and healthy food is the health equivalent to an endowment life insurance plan. On the one hand, we insure ourselves against high costs that can arise from cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal diseases and diabetes and early death. On the other hand, if you don´t die or get sick, it pays out in the form of high quality of life thanks to a strong, vital and healthy body up into ripe old age. 

The following is the last analogy from the world of finance, I promise: Which insurance shall I choose? In other words, which sport and lifestyle choices have the greatest effect on my health and quality of life?

For this, we must understand the root cause of the problem: the loss of muscle mass. In our article about Myokines, we learned that the function of muscle mass goes far beyond enabling movement. It is a real organ. If the liver would start to shrink or the kidneys would start to disappear, we would not be as relaxed, wouldn´t we? But when it comes to our muscle mass, we simply let it happen. This makes no sense. We gradually lose muscle mass between the age of 20 to 70 years old, 40% on average within 50 years. So, you can calculate what happens even if you maintain the same weight throughout your entire life, taking into account this massive loss of muscle mass. I say muffin tops. By the way, once we reach the age of 30, our endurance starts to decrease by 15% every 10 years.

So, what to do? The Oslo University Hospital study reveals the following: Out of 5´700 elderly Norwegians, those who intensly exercised or were active for as little as 30-60 minutes a week, had a 37% lower risk of premature death. Even more interesting is the finding that seniors who did targeted strength training achieved the performance comparable to that of untrained 20-30 year-olds! Hence, the preservation of muscle mass must be our main goal in order to protect ourselves against ageing-related diseases. Endurance comes only second. Why? Muscle mass regulates blood sugar, endocrine activity and keeps the central nervous system going while endurance "only" represents an optimisation of the interaction between muscle mass and the cardiovascular system, so it is more of an ability than a resource.

A simple formula to insure yourself against age related disease

In a lecture at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Dr Doug McGuff used a simple analogy called the "area under the curve". This refers to the so-called physiological reserve:

The best way to determine the physiological reserve is to measure the maximum strength. If it is very high in specific tests, we have a large physiological reserve to cope well with the demands of everyday life and also to enjoy golf or winter sports. If this physiological reserve equals zero, we are either dead or paralyzed. Unfortunately, from the age of 24 to 26, our physiological reserve decreases with the loss of muscle mass as we age. At this point, it’s worth exploring the three different scenarios:

  1. A person does not lead an active lifestyle and lets the course of events happen. The physiological reserve continues to decrease and between the age of 65 to 80 reaches a level at which one would be seriously concerned about their health state, or as one would say in Swiss German: "Isch nümme so guet z'wäg".
  2. A person does not lead an active lifestyle and regularly suffers from injuries resulting in accelerated muscle loss due to excessive rest and care and lack of targeted training with the goal of regaining the muscle mass. The physiological reserve decreases much faster than in the case of a person who was simply inactive. The critical level, at which certain things are simply no longer fun is reached much earlier, perhaps as early as the 50s.
  3. The person has done serious strength training all their life. The physiological reserve decreases at a much slower pace. To exaggerate a little, this fit 80-year-old is fitter or as fit as an untrained 40-year-old. That's a lot of fun, we would say, from hiking up the hill to playing golf or chasing your happy grandkids.

Please note, it doesn't have to be the high intensity strength training as we offer it at AURUM. It is simply the most time-saving and effective method to maintain the physiological reserve as long as possible and without the risk of injury. 

What are the lasting health effects of strength training?

These are the lasting effects due to more muscle mass: 

  • Prevents injuries and alleviates discomfort and pain by stabilising the body and its structures. Something that differentiates AURUM from regular strength training is the so-called osteogenic loading, which helps counteract osteoporosis. 
  • Muscles are our heat producers. Ever wondered why the retirees in the USA are known to be drawn to Florida 😊? Or ours here to Ticino?
  • Musculature regulates our metabolism. It regulates the sugar balance and prevents its excess to be stored into fat.
  • A strong musculature is a luxury good that must be supported by a strong cardiovascular system and central nervous system. Therefore, maintaining a strong musculature helps maintain all the three systems at once. 

Conclusion: Muscle mass gives the power to enjoy life. No matter if you are a passionate golfer, a sailor, a horseback rider or a railway modelling enthusiast - with more power, cognition and fat burning capacity, everything is so much more fun.

These are the most important effects of strength training

  • Myokines are released into the bloodstream with every intense muscle contraction. These are hormone-like substances that have a potent and important interaction with the organs. For example, "brain-derived neurotrophic factor" (BDNF), one of the best-known myokines which acts on the new formation of synapses and nerve cells, thus providing effective protection against dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Some of these substances also have anti-inflammatory effects, which partly explains the relief of back pain.
  • Mechanical work is mechanical work: the cardiovascular system cannot distinguish whether you have just sprinted for 60 seconds or done 60 seconds of hard leg press. Ergometer training is a high-intensity strength training which is also an effective training of the cardiovascular system, something that’s commonly known as endurance.
  • Fat burning: The Body stores the energy that is not used in fat cells in the form of triacylglycerol, located in the adipocytes. These are the building blocks of the spare tires and muffin tops around the waste ☹. However, when the body is stressed, it needs this stored energy. This is the case with high intensity training. When a body is challenged at high intensity, the hormones adrenaline and glucagon are released, which initiate the release of the adipocytes, causing the adipocytes and so the spare tyre and the muffin tops to shrink 😊. This process has a longer-lasting and stronger effect than low intensity endurance training such as jogging. This also explains why strength training is more effective than cardio when it comes to fat burn.
  • Sugar metabolism: Highly intense training requires so much energy that the sugar reserves of your muscles are completely depleted. If this happens on a regular basis, then the muscle cells become more receptive to sugar from our diet and can process it better, which is highly beneficial to our overall health. This means that sugar is burned as fuel and less of it is stored into fat and so less insulin - the “sugar-into-fat” storage hormone - is needed. This is particularly interesting in the case of diabetes type 2, which is a classic sugar consumption phenomenon. The body has to produce so much insulin over the course of a lifetime that its production “factory”  i.e. the pancreas, is dilapidated, to put it mildly. So, the less insulin is needed, the better. After a high intensity training, the glycogen (energy) reserves in your muscles are so empty that this effect can last for several days. When the energy reserves in our muscles are full and we consume glucose, an enzyme is produced that promotes fat storage. This totally makes sense as we can only store about 900 - 1500 kcal in the form of sugar, but hundreds of thousands in the form of fat. Since our body is always afraid of starving - childhood trauma from the Stone Age of our species - it stores sugar into fat from the moment the glycogen reserves are full. 

So don´t stress out about exercise. Get those muscles burning with a good strength training once a week. It´s the 80/20 principle of personal health when it come to sport.

Have a great week,

Julian


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