T Nation

Muscle and Lifespan

There is some debate as to the effects of exercise on lifespan, who would share their informed opinion ?

Also there has been some comments that seem to assert that having “extra muscle mass” will contribute to accelerated ageing, thus weightlifting should be in moderation, I think this is a fallacy in that if a person focuses on pure strength building (neural training) vs. bodybuilding type training (sarcoplasm development) this shouldn’t significantly increase the total free radical load.

[The more calories that you burn which you don’t really need to, the more free radicals are generated and the more chance of damage to the body, including cancers. Calorie restricted animals generally live longer if only lightely exercised.
OTOH, some exercise is necessary to make healthy heart/lung capacity and tone, and to maintain bone mass at older ages. I still maintain that any strength or muscle mass beyond that necessary to move you body about without stress or to do other highly desirable activities will be negative from a life-expectancy pov. – Tom ]

I’d have to agree with you…regular INTENSE exercise does seem to speed up aging among certain barometers of aging ( like connnective tissue) up to a certain extent but I’m sure its better then having someone sit around on their butt worrying compulsively about how much food they’re eating as to not create excessive free radicals. Moderate bodybuilding also seems to have an advantage over any other types of exercise in that it’s participants seem to stay younger looking longer.

an analogy of a car would be best suited to get my point across. IF our bodies were cars, then the more gas you use (per unit time), the quicker it breaks down from wear and tear. If, you drive around with 4 passenger as apposed to 1, you’d end up using fuel a lot faster. Thus, the disintegrating efficiency of bodily processess (food absoption, distribution, metabolism, excretion etc.) would ultimately decrease life span (rollercoaster accidents excluded).

Well the previous theories are valid and are backed by a good deal of animal evidence. Another thing backing them is the whole telomere issue, but I’ve also heard that longevity is increased when individuals have greater amounts of muscle mass as they become elderly. This is somewhat backed up by the Harvard Alumni study. This study looked at survival and longevity of alumni and classified all this according to profession, amount of exercise, diet etc…A group with some of the best longevity was that of longshoremen. This is a profession that is doing heavy lifting and expending a lot of calories 5 days a week. This could be supportive of the above theory.

I read an article refering to a lifespan survey done on American competitive athletes. While pro footballers had the lowest life expectancy, what was interesting was that marathon runners had the second lowest life expectancy (and a very close second). the author said something about free radical damage and lack of extra tissue to offset age-related wasting. i can buy that. just look at 10k hotshot Bob Kennedy. The dude’s body looks like a 70 year olds!

I agree with the previous comments on this topic. However,
many of the people who read T-mag (excluding myself and
some others) are more interested soley in bodybuilding,
and less in the health consequences.

Also, I forgot to mention that Tom, of the LEF forum, and
the LEF itself are both, IMHO very knowledgeable and very
credible sources of life extension and health info. They
also sell very high quality products at good proces. I
buy my “hardcore” BB supps from Biotest, and I buy almost
everything else from LEF. In both cases I consider it money
well spent.

Tom is correct: all that excess muscle that bodybuilders pack around will increase free radical production, which in turn will accelerate the aging process. I’d advise you take lots of antioxidant supplements (Lef.org is a great place to get them, or Country Life’s Super 10 is a decent start if you are on a budget), get a white collar job where you won’t have to use all that muscle, and hope for the best. If you are really into life extension then you should definitely visit researchamerica.org and find out how you can support medical research and development for no more than the cost of a few postage stamps.

This isn’t meant as a personal attack, but people who spend so much time worrying about their life expentancy crack me up. I look at my grandad, a former stonemason. Huge fella- bigger than most bodybuilders I’ve seen. Ate bacon and eggs for breakfast almost everyday. By all accounts, he shoulda died young. But, he lived to be 83. Then I look at a lot of these ‘health nuts’, who put so much stress into their lives by fretting about their food, that they’ll probably die of stress related heart attacks in 30 years. This has caused me to come to two conclusions. #1. If weight training takes years off your life, it’s just the ones at the end, which really suck anyway. I’d rather die at 60 and have lived a great life as a 250 lb bruiser than die at 75 in a nursing home after spending the last 5-10 years of my life sitting in a wheel chair watching the grass grow. #2. Who cares? You could spend your life counting calories and trying to be 100% healthy, hoping to live until your old and gray, and get hit by a drunken motorist at age 30. Why spend have your life fretting that you might loose a few years at the end. Just get out there and enjoy life. Try to live healthy, but don’t be obsessive. Just do enough to improve your quality of life, and move on…

People have a false conception that if you live a healthy life, the years you add to your lifespan will extend into the “low quality of life” zone. In fact, there is no such zone. The truth is that regardless of how you live your life, as long as you die of natural causes you will spend the last 10-20% of your life experiencing unpleasant side effects, whether you die at 50 or at 100. A person living a healthy life would have a very high quality of life in their sixties and seventies, but a person who, due to unhealthy living, dies in their sixties will be living a very unpleasant life in their fifties (suffering from heart disease, cancer, or whatever other ailments ultimately cause the person’s death). So basically you cannot escape suffering at the end of your life unless you die of unnatural causes. But you can add quality years to your life by choosing to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean giving up bodybuilding (see my previous post). Of course, there are always exceptions – some people have such good genes that they can smoke, get fat, and eat tons of bad foods and still live a long healthy life, but most people are not like this, and think of how much longer and healthier these people would have been if they had chosen a different lifestyle to begin with. Great genetics combined with great choices would equal a fantastic life, in terms of both length and quality.

Mike: good point. Kolk: I agree with you that “obsessing”
to the point of self-inducing excessive and unhealthy
stress is unwise. But there are many rational and practical
things that you can do to extend your lifespan. So if that
is something that is important to someone, they should do
so. Before you laugh at the concept of life extension, I
encourage you to learn more about it. The idea is not
to extend life so you can live decrepitly in a nursing
home, but to extend the amount of healthy vibrant years
as long as possible. Regarding the bus: statistically,
unless you plan on living to be 10,000 years old the odds
of you getting hit by a bus are totally negligable. One of
the things you can do to extend your life is not be
reckless and doing things like walking out into the street
without checking for traffic. :slight_smile: Joke: who would want to
live to be 110 years old? Answer: you on your 109th
birthday. Also, keep in mind that medical breakthroughs
are coming fast and furious these days. The human genome
project was just completed, and there are billions of
dollars being poured into research to find cures for all
kinds of disorders like cancer, and … aging. Another
example is how cloning of human organs could be used to
replace failing organs - or even to add new functional
brain cells. Just think, maybe in 60 years you would wish
you had taken more steps to increase your lifespan and
improve your health as you age. You can makes changes
now. In 60 years it might be too late. As for me
personally, I think it is a great time to be alive, and I
want to be around to see more of it (life) for as long as
possble.

Regarding bodybuilding and lifespan, IMHO weight
training done in moderation will probably extend life span,
or at least reduce the effects of ageing. There is a lot of
evidence that caloric restriction will also extend lifespan
and reduce the effects of aging. Unfortunately, there has
not been a lot of research on the combination of the two,
so we don’t know enough details. For example, people who
weight train typically need significantly more calories. So
if someone is weight training, but is eating more calories,
but not tons of calories, would that still have the
benefits of CR (caloric restriction). This is a complex
topic and the answer is we just don’t know. My personal
belief is that CR is relative to LBM. So a person with more
LBM can “get away” with eating more calories than a fatter
or skinnier person. This may be what is responsible for
the youthful appearance of most natural BBs. Tom takes
the conservative approach, and makes a good point that more
LBM may increase free radical production. But people who
weight train regularly also have greater production of
natural anti-oxidants (there are studies to back this up)
which may compensate for this. So IMHO, the key for
maximally extending lifespan would be to weight train in
moderation, and also eat in moderation relative to your
LBM. Possibly slightly undereat relative to you LBM. But
I think full caloric restriction as proposed by Roy Walford
, if used by someone who weight trains, will only be
counter productive. And note that Walford does not engage
in much weight training.

It also comes down to a quality of life issue. Personally, I wouldn't mind going on a caloric restriction diet to extend my lifespan. But I don't want to give up weight training and bodybuilding. Weight training makes me feel better and look better. But most importantly, weight training (for many many years) has given me a discipline, a strength of will, which I consider extremely valuable. It has benefited me in many areas of my life. I wouldn't want to give that up for the sake of life extension. And personally I would feel that if I stopped lifting, I would lose some of that psychological strength - the "edge" it gives me. For more good thoughts on this psychological aspect, I refer you to Chris Shugarts Alligator Stew for the Soul in T-mag issue 104.

I think quality of life should be able to get its fair share in the whole equation. Who cares if you live to 110 by eating carrot sticks and meditating. I don’t think those extra years of a boring extistance are really worth it. You’re reduced to a machine, being it’s only purpose to keep functioning. What’s my presciption? Go skydiving often, get drunk, and take ckicks out for sex and pizza as much as possible. Warning! Could be hazardous to your health if done all at once.

I really do wish people would research the idea of “life
extension” before posting. Many people have a lot of
misconceptions about “life extension.” For many people
interested in life extension, the idea is to stay alive
long enough in order to take advantage of advanced
technology that will be coming available in the next 10-100
years. At some point, we will have the technology to fix
practically any health problem, and then you could get
drunk and have as much pizza as you wanted - with the
health/medical tech available at that time, you wouldn’t
have to worry about the health implications any more.
(Except for catastrophies like a plane crash.) To me,
making many (but not all) sacrifices to see that future is
very worthwhile.

First of all, eating pizza and drinking alcohol aren’t all that bad for you, sometimes even beneficial. Everything in moderation, free willy. My point was that you should live for the present cause guess what, worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet is pointless. There’s plently of scientific evidence stating that raising one’s quality of life, increases health through the release of beneficial neurotransmitters, hormones, (i.e. interferons, endorphins) while reducing some of the bad guys (cronically high glucocorticoids and adrenalin). I see where you’re coming from though. I’m not looking to die tomorrow, but if enjoying myself a little too much is going to shave a few days off my existance then who cares.

Brian, I wasn’t attacking you personally, I was just
pointing out another perspective. So there is no need for
you to resort to childish name calling. And I mostly do
agree with your points. Improving quality of life can
improve health in numorous ways. I’m not saying you
shouldn’t do that. I also agree, everything in moderation.
Yes, worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet is
pointless and harmful. BUT my point is that you can
plan for, and work toward (not worry about) things in
the future to produce better/desired results. Living for
the moment is great some of the time, but if you don’t
also work and plan for the furue you will get nowhere.
(Like you say, everything in moderation.) For example, you
could say you are “living for the moment” by skipping
training and eating pizza and beer all the time. But that
will get you fat and muscle-less real quick. It takes
planning, work and self sacrifice to bodybuild. It takes
the same for life extension. If you’re not willing to plan,
work and make some (not all) sacrifices to achieve your
health/fitness goals, then IMHO I don’t think you will get
very far. So the same principles that apply to bodybuilding
also apply to life extension. It’s not that far a stretch.

Also yes, some studies show that alcohalic beverages, especially red wine, can promote health if used in moderation* (1-2 drinks per day) What you said sounds like more than that. Regarding pizza, the tomato sauce is probably healthy because it is high in lycopene. However the cheese (high saturated fat) and wheat crust (extremely high & long lasting GI spike) are most definitely *not* healthy.

Well the life extension diet of caloric restriction is not just about that. it is also about:

-increased ratio of non calorie nutrients ( vitamins minerals fiber fytochemicals ) in relaton to protein / fat / carbs.

-more ‘good’ fats in relation to ‘bad’ fats

-less carbs so a lower blood sugar is maintained resulting in less ‘glucose-protein cross bridging’ ( interesting note: i heard about a few scientists who where making chemicals that could break these cross bridges, which were considered permanent damage to your body )

-less high GI foods in general.

-frequent smaller meals

Perhaps these themes were not the intention of the researchers but they occure if eat a lot of vegetables the whole day.

So perhaps bulking body builders can benefit from some of the things from this diet. Calorie restriction can come when your to old to maintain all the muscle anyway.

You can have it both ways… Big muscle and LE are not necessarily mutually exclusive,
For examlple a diet that consists of many small meals throughout the day is both anabolic and anti glycolitic, and the emphasis on using ALP and other nutrients potentially have a strong anabolic and LE effect, there is some evidence that protective enzymes up regulate in response to oxidative stress if provided the proper precursors


One here and now benefit to anti-aging is you will be more attractive to younger sexual partners =],

Although It's true we could all die tomorrow, two thing can happen.. ya will or ya won't ! It is possible to maintain a enjoyable here and now lifestyle while planning for an extended lifespan.