Coach’s Corner 1-23-2015 Exercise: Best…
Exercise: Best drug on the Market
B.D. has become a great propellant to my thinking. Recently he stumbled upon an article that concluded lack of exercise is a more important factor in mortality than obesity (or lack of). So the question was, “why?” Popular thinking would have you believe that an obese individual is at a higher risk of mortality than one that is not and in most cases this has merit. However, multiple studies are concluding that there are three predictors of mortality that are far more important. The predictors studied are cardiovascular health (typically verified through VO2 max), strength (typically leg/grip tested), and lean body mass (BMI) with strength being the leading factor. Strength is an indicator in how long I’ll live? What about blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol? Let’s just take one from coach Mark Rippetoe, “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.”
Strong people are harder to kill. Strong people are more useful. Until researching the idea of strength and its effects on mortality I had only thought of these statements as something cool to say. However, both hold true. Attached are two studies that you may find interesting. The first that I’ll reference focuses on health factors related to exercise and how they in turn affect the mortality rate in individuals with hypertension (high blood pressure). In the study, researchers followed 1506 hypertensive males over 40 years of age during a period spanning 1980-2003 with average follow-up at 18.3 years. Many factors were tested like blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, lifestyle, and BMI. However the 1RM leg extension was the dividing factor and individuals were placed into 3 strength groups of roughly 500 participants. Interesting enough the stronger group had higher BP readings with lower BMIs and similar cholesterol and glucose. At the end of this study 183 deaths had occurred and listed under all-cause mortality (death by whatever).
Strong people are harder to kill. Within the 3 strength divisions, deaths looked like this; low-74, middle-61, high-48. Do you see a trend? Age adjusted numbers are even more clear. Furthermore, one of the tests was cardiovascular function while on a treadmill. The 3 divisions were further divided into 2 sub groups of lower and higher fitness levels. The fitness groups showed the same mortality trend in relation to the strength level groups. This showed that regardless of fitness level the mortality rate was more highly affected by strength levels. The second study attached, shows the same trend following significantly older individuals but while additionally testing size of muscle and just not strength. Strength again proves to be more important. Survival rates increase as strength has a higher baseline. What does this tell us?
Strong people are harder to kill and more useful in general. We know that increased fitness levels will affect blood glucose regulation and fight heart disease. However, what we (or better explained scientists) are learning is that it is muscle that fights all these fights. The heart is a muscle. Muscle tells the liver what to do to regulate blood sugar. Muscle protects the body from outside forces both at a physical molecular level. It plays a huge role in the immunity response. Muscle does not just do as it is told but it sends out its own signals.
However, I want you to think more quality of life or more vividly the frailty that can be life. If it takes you squatting 400lbs to jack your blood pressure and heart rate up then getting out of a chair should be a piece of cake. But, if getting out of a chair is your 1RM, skyrocketing your BP and HR, then your daily life will be exhausting and hard. Furthermore, think about incidents of falling and how strength and speed could lower these incidents. I recall a study that showed 75% of elderly pass away within 1 year of fracturing a hip. In addition, grip strength was tested as a mortality factor. How much energy does it take for you to take out the trash or open a bottle of coke?
Muscular strength makes the body more resilient and adaptable. Muscular strength fights off disease processes. Muscular strength decreases all-cause death. Moral of the story; get strong.