Welcome to part 4 of this series covering 5 essential tips for aging gracefully and optimizing energy and body composition.
Hopefully you’ve been listening since the start—in part 1 we talked about eliminating processed, nutrient-deficient foods from your diet, and in part 2 we talked about emphasizing the most nutrient-dense, easy-to-digest foods to drive for maximum cellular energy status at all times. In part 3 we talked about increasing all forms of general everyday movement (walking, taking quick breaks from work and integrating a variety of other forms of movement in your day) and in part 4, we focus on the best ways to integrate exercise, especially brief, intense workouts. This is a fundamental law of nature—you have to challenge your body through explosive efforts on a regular basis, otherwise, it will literally shrivel up and send you into a tailspin of accelerated aging. Sadly this has become so commonplace that we see aging as this steady, accelerated decline over decades, so one important takeaway from this show is that merely moving more in everyday life will bring you more health and longevity benefits than adhering to a devoted fitness regimen. Of course, this is not the whole picture, but considering how common Active Couch Potato Syndrome is, this is an important perspective shift—to realize how much just moving around more in everyday life will affect your longevity.
Let’s embrace the idea that we can move into the later decades of life still feeling athletic, energetic, and maintaining a healthy and impressive body composition! This episode will share how you can do this, reveal the number one cause for age-related decline, and much more to help you age as gracefully as possible.
Brad reminds us what the first three parts of his anti-aging podcasts covered. [0:59]
The Active Couch Potato Syndrome describes a person who exercises but is inactive the rest of the time. [02:18]
One of the main killers and the main causes of accelerated decline is the loss of muscle mass, and you can do so much about that at any age. [04:11]
Brief intense exercise is put into two categories. One is resistance training. [07:38]
The Big Five Workout protects you from over-training and is not time-consuming. [12:05]
Brief sprinting periods can be developed by gradually adding difficulty. The rest in between sprints is of critical importance. [16:02]
Micro workouts can be done at home or office with little equipment. [20:13]
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I’m author and athlete, Brad Kearns. Welcome to the B.rad podcast, where we explore ways to pursue peak performance with passion throughout life. Visit bradkearns.com for great resources on healthy eating, exercise, and lifestyle. And here we go with the show.
Welcome to part four of the series on five tips to age gracefully and Optimize Energy and Body Composition. Hopefully, you’ve been with me from the start where in part one we talked about the critically urgent need to clean up your act out of the gate so we can even talk about things like energy, vitality, and longevity. And that is to eliminate nutrient-deficient processed foods from the diet. That took us to part two where we talked about emphasizing the most nutrient-dense, easy-to-digest foods, to strive for maximum cellular energy status at all times, give you that healthy, active, energetic lifestyle. In part three, we talked about increasing all forms of general everyday movement centerpiece being, walking and integrating a variety of other movements such as foam rolling, such as formal movement practices like yoga, Pilates, and especially taking quick breaks from prolonged periods of stillness and cognitive focus on the screen. These could be for things like micro workouts that we’re gonna talk about in this show or anything that’ll get you outta the chair and walking around. Even a standup desk switching back and forth from standing up to sitting down could count towards your daily movement objective.
But I put that at part three because many experts are contending now that just moving more in everyday life will bring you more health and longevity benefits than adhering to a devoted fitness regimen. Of course, it’s not the whole picture, but we have this modern problem of the active couch potato syndrome where people who are expressing a very impressive devotion to their fitness goals, but nevertheless engaged in a variety of other lifestyle patterns that are sedentary. They cannot escape from the disease paradigm shown by people who are minimally active. It’s called the active Couch Potato Syndrome because their blood risk factors and other things are similar, even though they are devotedly running 35 miles a week or showing up at the gym at 6:00 AM a few days a week, and then sitting on the train or in the automobile or sitting in a desk, sitting on a couch for leisure time and banking a lot of hours of stillness.
We have this concept in the Primal Endurance book and course called the Lazy Athlete Mentality, where it seems like a lot of a hard training athletes will, uh, take somewhat of a hall pass to where they can act lazy in everyday life because they woke up and did that 6:00 AM workout. Certainly the fitness benefits are tremendous of adhering to a devoted fitness regimen, but it’s an important perspective shift to realize that just moving around more in everyday life is a huge obligation for your overall health, wellbeing, longevity. And then we can start talking about more refined fitness objectives. And part four is the introduction, integration of brief intense exercise. This is the use it or lose it fundamental law of nature.
So you have to challenge your body with explosive efforts, putting your body under resistance load on a regular basis, otherwise it will literally shrivel up and wither up and send you into a tailspin of accelerated aging. Gee, that sounds terrible, but it is so commonplace today that we perceive aging to be this steady and accelerated decline over decades that is not really associated with biological aging, which if done correctly, can happen at a very trickle pace compared to the steady decline where you’re pathetically worse off at 40 than you were at 30 and then exponentially worse off at 50 than you were at 40. It does not have to be that way. And we have shining examples of these extreme athletic specimens that are setting records and looking incredible in the advanced age groups, and a lot of people take a quick look at those pictures and go, wow, there’s a genetic freak right there. Or there’s someone who is so extreme and dedicates their entire life to training. So of course they can still, perform amazingly at age 55, but really we have to simplify this to make it doable and within reach of ordinary people so that you can take that aging curve on the graph envisioned and shorten up the pitch of the decline.
You’ve heard me cite stats about the decline in the average male testosterone level, which in average declines about 2% a year. And in those who are super fit, that can be reduced by something like a tenfold. So you’re just declining a quarter of a percent a year or something like that. Of course it’s gonna happen. We’re not gonna live forever, but we want to embrace this idea that we can get into those later decades feeling strong, explosive, athletic, energetic, maintaining a healthy, impressive body composition, especially keeping that lean muscle mass on the body and staving off the accumulation of visceral fat, especially, and overall adverse body composition. Too much fat, not enough muscle. The term for age related decline in muscle mass is called sarcopenia. So this is one of the main killers and the main causes of accelerated decline is the loss of muscle mass, and you can do so much about that at any age.
So wherever you’re starting from now, starting tomorrow, you can have an incredible health turnaround. Longevity, disease risk factors mitigated quickly by working on building that muscle mass. I love how Dr. Layne Norton, he’s a professional bodybuilder and authority on health and fitness training. Um, also Dr. Gabrielle Lyon has been echoing this similar idea where they want you to look to your muscle mass as a proxy for your health rather than obsessing about how much body fat you’re carrying. We’re always worried about not wanting to gain weight, wanting to keep that fat off our body. That’s fine. But if you build your muscle, the fat part will take care of itself. You will develop a healthy body composition by virtue of doing the hard work necessary to keep that muscle mass on your body.
So number four is brief intense exercise, and let’s make it simple and put it into two different categories. So one would be resistance training, resistance exercise. And that means putting your muscles under a load. Familiar would be lifting a weight, but it can also be, uh, lifting your own body weight or pulling on resistance cords to create the resistance. Doesn’t have to be the metal plates that clank around. There’s so many different ways to engage in resistance training. Of course when you’re in the gym environment, you can go and perform on the various machines that work muscle groups or isolate individual muscle groups. And there’s so much talk about what’s better. Machines are free weights, and are these machines better than those? Can I get something in my home gym environment that’s just as good as the facility? And I wanna simplify this for everybody and stay away from the controversy and the nonsense by contending that any type of resistance load is gonna be a fantastic stimulation for your muscles and your metabolism and all your health goals.
So whatever you prefer is probably the best workout for you. I love pulling on the resistance tubing, as you see with the X three bar invented by Dr. John Jaquish or a less expensive, more simple version are the stretch cords, stretch, C O R D Z. You can order them on Amazon for 50 bucks and you hang ’em off a doorknob or off a chinup bar and you can just pull the cord and stretch it and thereby get a wonderful stimulation, variable resistance workout. I can do a total upper body workout working all the muscles of my upper body in about five minutes with this cords hanging here on my chinup bar in my office doorway. And I give you a little sneak preview inside scoop of what my office slash recording studio looks like and all the amazing fitness opportunities that I’ve crammed into a small space here, but just pulling some cords.
So simple, very safe for those of you intimidated by stepping into the gym and loading up a bar with a bunch of plates. And indeed that would be considered an advanced strength training strategy to go and actually put your body under the load of heavy weights. But there’s so many benefits to that type of exercise that it’s very likely a good idea to work toward that goal of actually lifting free weights someday because you develop so many other skills besides just working the muscle to lift the weight. But I really would recommend a steady and careful progression if you’re a novice outta shape or don’t have much experience with the weights in the gym. A good starting point. There are the machines that you see in the fitness facilities because those generally anchor your, your body weight in a safe position, such as sitting down on the bench, lying down on the bench something where you have much less risk of injury from dropping the weight or engaging in a technique flaw that will put your lower back under traumatic load or something like that.
I interviewed Dr. Doug McGuff where he talked about his big five workout that was highlighted in the wonderful book Body by Science. And the big five is essentially going over to the fitness facility where they have the machines and performing five, basically a foundational compound movements that work a variety of muscle groups. And when you’re completed with the five, you’ve worked every major muscle group in your body. Um, the appealing part of this is that, uh, McGuff’s research and many others, uh, supporting this idea is that you only need to work your major muscle groups with these, uh, functional movements once a week to a single set to total failure. And that is enough stimulus, that’s the optimal stimulus for improving muscle strength. So to simplify it down to the only, you have to get your butt in the gym once a week to do a workout that takes around 12 minutes, cuz again, you’re doing a single set to failure on five major muscle group exercises.
And those are the chest press, the lap pull down, the overhead press, the seated row, and the leg press. So these are super safe, they’re super easy to learn. You can learn them in McGuff book or search for Doug McGuff Big Five Workout on YouTube. We’ll put a link in the show notes and you can get going, uh, with this protocol that’s within reach of everybody. I mean one, one visit to the gym a week for 12 minutes. Now if you have, uh, more sophisticated fitness goals like you wanna improve your tennis game or what have you, uh, of course there’s gonna be a lot of justification for getting into the gym and doing a variety of different exercises and training methods to become a total athlete. But McGuff s research and his message in the book is focusing on the element of building increasing pure muscle strength and minimizing the risk of overtaxing yourself regressing with your strength and your fitness, which happens so frequently with people who, uh, like to get to the gym frequently and tend to overdo it.
So I also like that about the Big Five Workout, that it protects you from those over-training patterns, which are so common. And I’ve been working on this for probably a year or more where I throw in the Big Five Workout into my regimen. And that is the majority of my, um, the effort toward strength training is just doing this simple workout and once a week or less is, uh, sort of my pattern. So I’m not even doing good getting in there once a week because I’m trying to perform and recover in a variety of different fitness, uh, goals, protocols, especially sprinting and jumping. So, um, you have to weigh everything and make sure that you’re in a nice pattern that’s sustainable. And I like how that simplifies it down to a single workout short period of time. The other attribute when you’re doing the lap pull downs, the seated rows, the chest press, is that you want to proceed at a very slow pace.
So you put your muscles under load for somewhat long duration of time, even though you’re only doing a single set. You might be working without weight for up to 90 seconds. In other words, you’re pushing forward on the chest press and then you’re letting the weight down while you’re still controlling the weight. You’re not just dropping it onto the machine. And so the whole time, whether you’re lifting the weight or lowering the weight, your muscles are working hard. And when you’re slowing down that pace from what you see most people doing in the gym where they’re just wasting the weight up as fast as they can, letting it drop, it’s a huge difference in degree of difficulty. And believe me, a single set to failure of those five workouts that comprise the big five are plenty, and you will need some recovery time afterward.
That is the same protocol that’s followed for the OSTEOSTRONG program that’s targeting senior citizens with trying to preserve bone density and maintain or increase muscle strength with just a single session per week that only lasts for a few minutes on their four core machines that are in the Osteostrong facility. And again, this stuff is great for that isolated goal of maintaining muscle strength and bone density, but when we’re talking about total fitness, we want to broaden our lands to especially increasing all forms of general everyday movement. And I’m personally going to put a plug in for sprinting and or jumping, doing something that’s brief and explosive, ideally weightbearing or as much weightbearing as you can. And many people are not in that category where they can step out of the house and go and sprint down the street. So again, we wanna progress naturally and gracefully to be able to do more and more advanced degree of difficulty sprinting.
And so you can sprint in a low or no impact manner, such as doing a series of sprints on a stationary bicycle or on a rowing machine or on an elliptical machine. And then you can progress, I guess the next step up would be doing sprints uphill or upstairs. But the key attribute here is that you deliver a near all out effort for a very short duration, and you do as many reps as appropriate, uh, with an extensive rest period in between each one. And so that each rep, each sprint that you perform is of exceptionally high quality, where the first one’s just as impressive as the sixth one or the seventh one. And when you start to notice a slight attrition in performance, that pretty much marks the end of your sprint session. So it’s not something where you want to exhaust yourself and strain and see your technique faltering and your performance faltering as you count out a bunch of reps.
And the reason I’m mentioning this sort of obvious insight is that we have tremendous fascination in the fitness world with this protocol of high intensity interval training. Everyone’s touting it as a supreme way to get fit. It has better return on investment than just jogging or going slow. And, in context, all those insights are valid, where if you work hard at a elevated heart rate, you’re gonna get, uh, a bunch of fitness benefits. But by and large, these, these workouts and the workout patterns are performed in a manner that is overly stressful for most of the participants. And so going into the 6:00 AM bicycle class three days a week with the peppy instructor in the loud music, and you’re asked to sprint over and over again for a longer duration than the sweet spot of 10 to 20 seconds, that is generally gonna leave many of the participants sort of depleted and exhausted and hungry after the workouts, all signs that you’ve really pushed yourself to a little bit more, uh, strain and stress impact than is ideal.
And so when you do a proper sprint workout instead with that long rest period and that short duration of the axial maximum effort, that’s when you get the best hormonal benefits because what you’re trying to do here is an appropriately brief fight or flight stimulation where you’re honing your maximum energy output skills, which then deliver a consequent improvement in fitness at all lower exercise intensities. So if you can get good at sprinting really fast, going really hard on that bike for 10 to 20 seconds, going really fast down the athletic field or down the track for 10 to 20 seconds, you get way fitter for your typical jogging or pedaling through the neighborhood. And you have to do it correctly with those long rest periods in between. I’ve done entire shows on sprinting protocol, but it’s pretty simple. You’re gonna do four to 10 reps depending on your experience level and your energy and your readiness that day.
Four to 10 reps of sprints lasting between 10 and 20 seconds with a six to one ratio between the rest and the work interval. So if you’re sprinting for 10 seconds down the football field, you’re gonna rest for a minute, you’re gonna do another one, you’re gonna do another one, you’re gonna accumulate somewhere between four and 10 reps, and that’s gonna be your sprint workout. And the fitness benefits are tremendous, but they also come with a higher risk of that breakdown, burnout, illness, and injury because you’re pushing your body really hard. So you really only need to sprint around once a week to get the optimal benefits in your overall fitness program. So what does that look like? Gee, it looks like the Primal Blueprint Fitness recommendations that Mark Sisson first started touting, uh, 15 years ago. That is to move frequently at a slow pace, to lift heavy things and to sprint once in a while.
And so the lift heavy things, putting your body under resistance load, I would recommend something like that big five workout where you’re working your muscles to, uh, maximum effort once a week may be an additional workout if you’re really enthusiastic about fitness and you’re in pretty good shape, but not necessary to do more than one, uh, really centerpiece strength training session a week, perhaps a complimentary session like on the Primal Blueprint Fitness period, it says twice a week for 10 to 30 minutes is the recommendation for strength training. And I would also like to add to this list the wonderful benefits of micro workouts. Again, I’ve done complete show on this topic, but this is outside of the structure of a formal training session, taking the opportunity throughout everyday life to put your body under a bit of challenge for brief periods as a way of breaking up prolonged periods of stillness, especially I have some good examples on YouTube.
We’ll put the link in the show notes. But essentially, wherever you are, your office environment, your homework environment, there’s always an opportunity to perform a nice appropriate micro workout. Get your breathing up a little bit, get your muscles working a little bit, and then return to your busy day. So I have these games and certain commitments that I make. For example, anytime I ascend a flight of stairs, I rush up it at a fast pace. And so if I’m climbing the stairs in my home several times a day, then I have a few short sprint workouts that last for five seconds each time I get up the stairs. When I go into under the doorway into the storage room, I will perform a single set of pull-ups, and that might be all I do that day in terms of an upper body exercise session.
But when you talk a year later, when you’ve sprinkled in these micro workouts into your daily lifestyle as habits, they make a tremendous overall contribution to your fitness levels and help you lead a more active, healthy, energetic life. And of course, improve your performance when it is time to engage in a formal workout session at the gym or when you’re taking that nice chunk of time to do a proper comprehensive strength training session at home. Uh, what was my other example is when I go and throw the garbage out. So I go through the side door, uh, and out the, uh, the, the side, uh, area of the house. I have a deadlift bar sitting there with minimal weight loaded on it so I don’t have to go and warm up like I’m doing a, a proper deadlifting workout, but I will go do a single set and then be on my merry way after throwing the garbage away.
And so if you can make these little commitments and if you don’t have equipment laying around, you can drop for a set of 20 deep squats while working in your cubicle at the office. There’s always an opportunity to put your body under some form of load challenge throughout your busy day. I also love the mini-band exercises where you strap the little rubber band around your ankle. Or actually since I keep breaking those, I’m very frustrated with the quality. I recommend the Mark Bell slingshot hip circle. So a much more durable circular fabric that you slide up around your thighs and then you do little baby steps or monster walks, and it’s a wonderful way to engage the glutes. And if you can just strap this thing on and go up and down the office hallway or in your home environment in 30 seconds or a minute, you’ll get a fantastic fitness and muscular stimulation.
So micro workouts are right in there with the objectives of performing a proper sprint workout once a week or doing a resistance training session once or twice a week. And so, as I said at the start of the show, look, we’re not talking about dedicating your life to fitness and being Mr. 67 year old going for the six pack or what have you. Uh, that kind of stuff is fun and games for those people that are deep into the fitness experience, even at advanced age groups. But I’m talking about just a reasonable commitment. And if we’re going, uh, one through four with the tips to spend so far, if you can clean up your diet and get rid of that processed food and start eating natural nutritious foods and you’re moving around more in everyday life and once in a while going for it with an explosive workout that is performed correctly so it doesn’t exhaust you, oh my gosh, you’ve all of a sudden gone from pathetic <laugh>, modern, average human sliding down a slope of accelerated decline and demise and disease and suffering, you’ve gone from that to exceptional with a very minimal time commitment into your busy, hectic, high-stress modern life.
So that wraps up. Tip number four is integrate brief intense exercise through resistance workouts, through proper sprint workouts, whether no impact, low impact or eventually high impact. And finally, figuring out ways to sprinkle in micro workouts into your busy schedule. You will be a big winner with minimal time commitment. Thanks for listening. We have one more to attack and that will be stress management techniques. And then we are going to be fully dialed in for a long, healthy, happy, energetic life and aging gracefully instead of in an accelerated manner as we see all around us. Take charge people, take some action. Let’s do this. Let’s turn the corner wherever you are today, whatever corner you’re at. Thanks for listening to show number four. One more coming.
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