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Make yourself harder to kill

Stronger people are harder to kill. It has been that way since our ancestors ran around in loin cloths chasing down Wooly Mammoths and hunting Saber-Toothed Tigers.

The 21st century has led to a different lifestyle for mankind though. We are a lot more sedentary today and therefore we have to exert ourselves through exercise to make us stronger and harder to kill. Our fight is not against apex predators though; this time it is against disease, the aging process and many other ailments that affect our industrialized society.

Strength is wasted on your youth

Unfortunately our peak strength levels are reached in our 20s and 30s and then generally decline. Exceptions do exist for those that engage in strength training later in life though. Extreme declines in strength happen to most people in their 80s and 90s.

Frailty results in lower levels of physical activity, decreased muscle strength, increased fatigue, loss of mobility, slower walking speed, unwanted weight loss, increased dependency on others, decreased mobility, disability, institutionalization — and even mortality.

Weaker elderly people also tend to fall more frequently and have greater difficulty standing from sitting or lying positions. I don’t know about you, but I plan on being able to get off the toilet on my 90th birthday the same way I did on my 9th birthday.

So how do we make ourselves harder to kill?

Exercise helps our body regenerate itself. Older athletes are less susceptible to age-related illnesses than their sedentary counterparts. Ongoing exercise has been shown to preserve lean tissue as well as strength and mobility, which are key to reducing the risk of injury and a whole host of health problems.

Studies are successfully linking athleticism to longevity as well. A recent analysis published in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International of more than 900,000 athletes (ranging in age from 20 to 79) showed that no significant age-related decline in performance appeared before the age of 55. Beyond that age the decline was surprisingly slow; in the 65 to 69 group, a quarter of the athletes performed above average among the 20 to 54 year-old group even.

Need further proof? I look at my dad and mom who are in their mid to late 60s, yet look a hell of a lot younger than anyone their age due to the training regimes they have had since they were young adults.

Also, I look at my friend, 74 year old Jacinto Bonilla who routinely kicks the asses of 25 year old guys at CrossFit Hell’s Kitchen where I work out.

Jacinto and I after crushing a workout together at CrossFit Hell's Kitchen
Jacinto and I after crushing a workout together at CrossFit Hell’s Kitchen

Now, as these studies indicate, not all exercise is created equal. Resistance training (think lifting weights), in conjunction with high intensity workouts (think aerobic exercise, running, rowing, swimming), are key.

It’s never too late to start either. My mom’s husband has been crushing row workouts and hitting the kettleballs with her in their basement gym and he started in his late 60s, yet he has never been stronger.

Also, the myth of “bulking up” for women is one of the worst “exercise myths” out there. Ladies it is time to lift weights and kick osteoporosis to the curb.

Nearly every gym offers a weightlifting area. A growing number even offer functional training areas where you will find Olympic lifting platforms, power racks, pull up bars, kettleballs and a whole host of fundamental pieces of equipment that do not say Nautilus on them (and to gym owners delight do not take up a 10’x10′ area so you can make your calves “bigger.”)

You can get great workouts at home involving a little equipment like dumbbells or kettlebells. Functional body weight movements can be done anywhere: think squats, push-ups, burpees, handstand push-ups and pull-ups.

The opportunities are endless, but one thing remains key: putting the body under resistance to build and maintain muscle to fight off Father Time.

It is time to reverse the aging process and start building muscle, kicking ass and taking names (heart disease, cancer, obesity, osteoporosis…). There is no time like the present to start your training program.