T Nation

Basic Question

Um, hey guys. I know this probably going to sound like a stupid question but, I’m sure all of you have heard how people who exercise and workout live longer and better lives? The question is…why? No one ever told me why? Like, what is the science behind it? I mean, aside from the many lifestyle diseases it can prevent, how does it help you live longer? I mean, I see these National Geographic issues of women and men that work out everyday of their lives from their jobs, yet they look aweful and older and seem to die younger than those in their area that don’t have to do all that back-breaking work? (poor nutrition?) Why don’t they look younger? I’m just confused here and I’ve really taken some thought to working out myself. I mean, do those that workout live longer in theory because they have to sleep longer to support the extra oxygen to the muscles and extra growth hormone so they spend more of their life sleeping? Is it because people who exercise are usually more health-conscientious? I mean, is there a greater science to it aside from just the general stuff we hear on TV or in other media outlets or the things I just mentioned above? I mean, it would seem to me that when you exercise, you damage your body…I mean, it hurts to damage your body? Isn’t it kinda like your body’s evolutionary response to say, “hey this sucks, it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it?” It’s just strange because I’d imagine if working out were as great as it is supposed to be, then why doesn’t everyone do it!? What is the science I’m missing here? I’ve been reading from these life-extensionist people that say having a lower metabolism with all your nutrients actually makes you live longer! But does not one who works out have a higher metabolism because they usually have more muscles to support? I’m so damn confused…It makes me wonder if I should join my school’s gym and put some meat on my bones or if I should just eat healthy and stay skinny. Any thoughts? It’s not like I’m obsessive about living a long life…just that I’d like to live long enough to fufill all my dreams and start while I’m young. Thanks everyone!

You sound like you’re trying your hardest to convince yourself not to workout. Sack up, wussie. :slight_smile: Seriously, do it or don’t do it. Stop looking for weak ass excuses.

just a quick response… although I AM a bodybuilder cause it makes me look better, I’ve recently come to the firm conclusion that it is NOT life enhancing and probably reduces long term life quality… at least the way it’s commonly done.

I think a REASONABLE work overload (i.e. slightly and progressively beyond what our life 's chores ask of us) WOULD be enhancing… but we of course go to the extreme: overeating,force overloading… beyond what out joints are capable of,playing havoc with our endocrine systems ,sucking our adrenal glands dry, exhausting the liver, using diets woefully lacking in adequate fiber/volume of food thus creating colon problems… etc…

The hardcore bodybuilding lifestyle (even the ‘natural’ one’s are UNNATURAL and will haunt us one day.

The blissfully ignorant trainee who does his cardio 3x week and follows it with a few toning exercises is likely to have healthier bodies than us post age 55.

No seriously, that’s not my intention! TEK, I honestly want to, but I want to know exactly WHY it is healthy to do!? If you can’t give me a reasonable answer it only makes it look like you just do it blindly yourself either to look better or because you were told it is good for you. I have a right to question this just as much as everyone else does. Anyone else more knowledgeable on the answer to my question or do you have a legitamate answer to my question TEK? And by the way, I DO want to work out. I’ve never been more motivated in my life to do it! But I still want to KNOW why!?

Why not lift weights so you can look better while you are alive. I know I don’t want to look average. You also might not be here tommorrow so lift and forget about all that stuff.

I don’t think you’re necessarily makng an excuse. I think people who do a lot of back-breaking work tend to look bad, etc. cuz our body isn’t made to work like that day in day out. And most of those people may also eat poorly (not junk food, but lack of quality food in general) since manual labor doesn’t pay that well.

With that said, some of the stuff people do when they bodybuild may not be “healthy”. Ketosis, not eating your veggies, no cardio at all, etc. cannot be considered the most healthy habits you can develop.

But look at people who never work out and eat poorly. They’re fat and unhealthy also. I think MODERATION and common sense is the key, not the extreme.

You are definately correct in saying that this is a complex issue. I will do my best to explain, but I can’t promise you the best answer to this question. First think of it this way: What happens to a house that nobody lives in? It falls apart. What happens to a house that is lived in? Somehow the house manages to stay intact. This is just a simple example of why it is important to use what we have. Of course there are holes in the analogy but it always gets me thinking…People that exercise boosts the immune system, builds stronger muscles, maintains bone density, maintains mobility, maintains the ability to get up off the toilet (more on that later)helps prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes; strengthens the heart and makes it a more efficient organ and there are many other benefits. Honestly, the evidence does not tend to demonstrate that people who work out regularly live longer. It does demonstrate that these people have compression of morbidity. Morbidity is a loss of function due to disease, disuse and the aging process. People who work out are more likely to live a life with low morbidity as compared to our sedentary counterparts. I hope this helps. Please ask if you need more details, but I’m heading to bed right now. Final note - make sure you strength train. People go to rest homes when they can no longer get off the toilet by themselves. That is one of the most common reasons. I don’t want to be that person and I hope you don’t either. There is so much more to this and there is a huge continuum. The starved Africans that you talk about look bad because they are not fed enough. Ronnie Coleman may be huge, but is he healthy? Depends on your definition, but I don’t think that what he has done is going to provide hime with a lifetime of less morbidity. Like I said, ask more questions if you’re curious.

Brian, anyone who’s tried the BB lifestyle in an intelligent manner and for more than six months will tell you that you look AND FEEL so much better that there really is no comparison. No one can give you a definitive scientific response to your question. So why don’t you, as an experiment, make the commitment to try it for half a year or so? You can then see for yourself what all the hoopla’s about. Also, just as a side note, there is no evidence that BBs live LONGER than other people - but there’s plenty that shows they live BETTER.

I believe that the amount of muscle you carry around governs the amount of anti aging hormones your body secretes, such as, testosterone, oestrogen and growth hormone. By lifting weights, you will maintain more testosterone as you age than somebody that dosent train.

Several of your reasons given are correct (i.e absence of certain diseases etc) but part of the equation has to do with how your body responds to free radicals, moderate exercise increases the bodies ability to fight free radicals ( which cause gene mutation and are thought to be the primairy reason that aging occurs)the same ways eating antioxidants can. even though exercising can increase free radical production it limits there damage by a yet unknown mechanism. This is the reason why low calorie diets are proposed to make you live longer- i.e they dont cause as much cell proliferation and therefor cut down on the extra possibilities of mutation and therefor aging. If your goal is to live longer moderate exercie, combined with moderate calorie intake seems to be the best route. One comment though is the evidence for lower calorie diets leading to longer lives may be a confounding factor as low calorie diets are also low in saturated fats which have been shgown to adversely affect health (I know I am going to get a bashing from the low carb worshipers now)

Not to be a dick, but if you are that motivated then you would have went to the gym yesterday. Are you going today? Or are you still waiting on someone to explain 8th grade health class to you?

Excercise: you die. Don’t excercise: you die. Any questions?

I think “tim m” hit the nail on the head here. Moderation is the key to everything. Strength training is good for bones, posture, and the ability to do things later in life. Cardio is good for your lungs and your heart. Eating healthy, good food–well, goes without saying–what you put into your body really matters. It’s when people go to extremes in either direction that we have problems. Elite athletes that push themselves beyond what is healthy do suffer health risks, and I think that all the messing around with systems that BB’s do cannot ultimately be the best thing. However, lifting weights and exercising prevents the onset of all kinds of nasty things as we age, and that is why it should be incorporated into your lifestyle. Also, if you have a “look good” goal in mind, you might be less prone to doing stupid things–like overindulging in alcohol, drugs, smoking, etc. Boosting one’s immune system, building strong bones, maintaining good posture, enhancing ones physique are all good things and should be the reason why you should hit the gym and not stay merely skinny. Skinny does not equal healthy!

Many of you wonder why this person wants to know this, but if you have read t-mag, it is full of people who ask why, and have learned more because of it. If I understand what and why, then I can design my own workout and diet without waiting for one to be designed for me.
I am into weightlifting/bodybuilding first for health and longevity, and second for looks. I refuse to do anything that might shorten my life, or affect my health adversely. The people following an extreme small diet for extended life eat about 1500 kcal per day or less. This produces a much slower metabolism no different then a cutting phase, just more extreme. It is believed that this utilizes less oxygen and as a result produces less free radicals then a normal metabolism does.
The damage of free radicals are seen when you cut into an apple and the air turns it brown. Our bodies normally fight off free radicals, but are not perfect. It is believed that vitamin C and vitamin E mop up free radicals. Alpha Lipoic Acid is also supposed to be a great antioxidant. There might also be a gene that turns on when the calories are real low, at least that is one theory, but I think that cell division might just slow down when food sources are scarce. Each time a cell divides it looses what is called a telemere, (hope I spelled that right) , and after a number of divisions you run out of telemeres, and the cell stops dividing. It actually starts producing toxins that help to destroy the body. Science has discovered an enzyme, telomerase (may also be misspelled), that rebuilds telemeres, convincing the cell that it is much younger.
As far as working out, that is just your body adapting to external stimulus. While a car and a body are different, and analogy can be made. If you let your car sit for a couple of years without use, it may not start. A car has to be run every once in a while to work properly. If you were to sit on a couch and watch TV for 2 years, your body does the same thing as the car, sit and rust. But a human body is different then a car whereas it adapts to external stimuli. After millions of years of evolution, having to survive in ever changing extremes, (or just being zapped up by an intelligent God for creationist point of view), we ended up with bodies that change depending on what is needed. By lifting weights, we convince the body that the work is necessary to live, so it adapts by getting bigger and stronger so as to be able to handle the stress better. To build that muscle up requires the body to send out various chemicals that happen to be good for the body such as Growth Hormone (GH).
As far as people who work long hours at hard work looking unhealthy, you are comparing marathon, nonstop hard labor that may last seven day a week to a workout of between one to two hours occurring only three or four times a week. There is no recovery allowed, and given that the work is not tailored around developing the body, will produce terrible results. The body adapts the best it can, but is not given the chance a bodybuilders body gets. Also it has been proven that almost all the strength loss in the aging process can be prevented with weight training.
Me personally, I plan to keep improving my physique until I obtain a moderate amount of muscle at a decent body fat ratio, then try my best to maintain that level. I will take my vitamins, and try to improve that ratio as new evidence comes in to convince me to change, add, or subtract the vitamins I am taking. I will also attempt to increase my omega 3’s and reduce the omega 6’s in my diet to get all the health benefits from the balance, and there seems to be shitloads of benefits. I will also attempt to keep my hormone levels at optimum levels, and try to increase the variety of activities I do to keep me in shape in other ways then weight lifting, although weight lifting will stay as my primary source of physical activity for health. Oh yeah, sunscreen, skin cancer sucks.
I once read that the chances of anybody getting cancer is one in three (1:3) but for athletes it drops to one in seven (1:7). Cutting the risk of cancer by half should be enough for anyone. By constantly improving my health, I expect to live past 100. But I think by that time (2067) I expect technology to be able to keep me alive another 50 years. (Then another 50 years of advances in technology will have occurred. How long can I keep that up?)
Ok , I am making some big assumptions about science improving, but I expect to live longer then anybody has yet. My biggest reason is that there are so many wonders around now that I would love to see what awaits in the future, and when I am there, I can have the health to experience these wonders. This also means that many more years of sex.

Oh geez - how do you sleep at night? With all these thoughts running through your brain, over and over…

Everyone embarks on the road to physical fitness for different reasons. And along this road, new reasons to stay the path appears. Some of us may take the occasional detour, but we always find our way back. Because it stays with you. It becomes a part of you.

I began so that I would stop being a li'l runt. THEN it I began to enjoy it. Seeing the changes in my physique, learning about my body, etc. AND realizing that being in tip-top physical condition actually helped me with my asthma and them nasty migraines that I useto get ALOT. The nice side effect to all this, is that yes, I started to look GOOD. Damn, NIIIICE "side effect". And this all improves my quality life. I'm gonna die when I die. Can't change that. BUT I can certainly do something about my quality of life NOW.

I love getting up early in the morning to go to the gym - I LOVE challenging myself physically on a day to day basis. I love eating quality foods that enable me to do all the things physically I do. I love my ENTIRE life. My life is certainly improved by physical fitness - at least I ain't lying around, hampered by my asthma, thinking them thoughts like you.....AYE CARUMBA. Oh, and at least I didn't have to have *someone else* explain to me the benefits, I just did it. I know what's good for me.

Alright Brian, the reason why we do it is based purely on a person to person basis so a single person can’t answer for the whole group. Oh yeah, and if your asking what is the meaning behind it, just go back to your room and ask yourself why do all of the hot chicks go for the big muscular guys?!?!?!?!?!

Your only as old as who you feel

With reason’s behind the health benefits of proper training been comphrensively covered, I’d just like to disagree with the concept of reduced calorie eating for longevity. I know a lot of the studies that were performed on this have showed an increase in lifespan, but I believe that they were idealised and would fail in a complex system,ie. human life. Simply put, significantly reducing calories over a very long term period, many years, may lower metabolism but would not increase lifespan. Having a low metabolism and hypocalorific input leaves the body highly suspectible to catabolism and vunerable to external attack. Any illness or damaged inflicited upon the body would cause much more trauma than if it were properly primed to defend and repair itself. In essence bending the body away from it’s natural healthy state to either grossly overeating or underfeeding is deterimental to longevity. A well fed person with good CV fitness and a decent percentage of functional muscle is the best bet for a superior life of superior quality.

Second what Tricky said. Good points. Also, for the Mage, it is ridiculous to say that free radicals are responsible for an apple’s turning brown when you cut the skin off. Exposure to oxygen (which is pretty corrosive stuff) is the reason. That’s why fruits (and people) have skins in the first place, and also one reason why it hurts when you get scraped or cut. Exposure to oxygen. Not some sort of immediate increase in localized free radical activity. Sheesh!

I’m 41 yrs.old and still benching 405 for reps 500 x 10 on squats and I’ve never been a power lifter.I curl 80lb dumbells I’m entering my state bodybuilding championship.I’ve been training for 20yrs.I’m 252lbs@10%bodyfat.I admit that my bodybuilding my not add time to my life but the quality of my life has been more than I can tell you.It has opened doors in my life that would not have been opened. It is simply amazing seeing my old school buddy’s they look so old.It is also amazing the amount of young women who hit on you everywhere you go.The bottom line is time is going to go by no matter what You might as well be big!!!