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Gerontologists study aging people and the aging process. Several years ago Italian scientist Dr. Ravaglia and his colleagues designed a unique study to determine the most important factor for healthy aging. A group of 75 HEALTHY elderly people ranging from 90 to 106 years old were selected for this study.
The researchers evaluated an enormous amount of data including anthropometric data (height, weight, skin-fold thickness, body circumference at the waist, hip & chest), a wide range of blood values, as well as aspects related to diet, nutrition and lifestyle.
The concept for this study was brilliant. Instead of studying old people who are sick, these researchers decided to study healthy elderly people and determine the most important factors that enabled them to maintain relatively good health well into their 90s and beyond 100 years old.
The outcome of this study is very important for individuals who want to maintain good health as they age. It turns out the most important factor for healthy longevity is: MAINTAIN YOUR MUSCLE MASS.
This means that individuals must regularly engage in some form of strength or resistance training. It can be lifting weights or using weight machines at a gym, or it can be more demanding programs such as Crossfit or the Insanity Workout-Extreme program, or it can be as simple as doing rigorous calisthenics at home. However, the message is clear. You must engage in some form of resistance exercise to gain and maintain your muscle mass. If you don't you will gradually lose your muscle mass which accelerates aging.
Of course I also advocate healthy food, clean water, healthy relationships and healthy home and work environments, but above all, work to maintain your muscle mass.
One of the most important book I ever read is titled BioMarkers: 10 Keys To Prolong Vitality by William Evans. This book enlightened me to the benefits of lifting weights or doing some form of strength training. Evans' book taught me that the most reliable biological markers of the aging process are all directly related to muscle mass. These are things like your resting metabolic rate, body fat percentage, strength, aerobic capacity, blood pressure, blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, cholesterol/HDL ratio, etc.
I read BioMarkers when it first came out in 1992 and I immediately made an important change in my life. I purchased a multi-station universal gym weight lifting and set it up in my garage. I've now been doing strength training 2-3 times a week for over 20 years. I'm not trying to be a bodybuilder. I just have a moderate routine that enables me to maintain my muscle mass.
However, I am thinking of selling my universal gym because a year ago I learned about the CrossFit exercise program. CrossFit is a much more intense strength and conditioning exercise program that works your body in a myriad of ways with each class pushing you to your maximum capable level of physical exertion. I am totally addicted to CrossFit, but that is another story for another time.