Is a Healthy Lifestyle Extending My Life?

Strauss Zelnick, author of Becoming Ageless, was a guest on the Whoop Podcast and shared this:

“Research says you can eat a phenomenally strict diet, get lots exercise, not smoke, and you’ll extend your life — but only by a couple years. The question is, what does late life look like?”

Wait one second.

I can invest in all these things (below) and it’ll only have a marginal difference in how many more years I’ll live?

  • Workout 3-4 times a week
  • Drink at least 1/2 gallon of water daily
  • Drink little alcohol
  • Fast (been trying the 16/8 program over last 6 months)
  • Eat lots of veggies, lean meats, nuts, seeds
  • Eat less sugar
  • De-stress
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep
  • Try a new diet/program when I need a re-set (I love Whole 30 and Paleo)

So, drinking more water won’t extend my life from 72 to 92. Staying consistent with exercise doesn’t dramatically improve my chances that I live past 85. Getting good sleep doesn’t tack on 8.5 years of life.

Oh boy.

Strauss lit a fire underneath me, and I continued to research. More specifically, genes, and their role in life expectancy.

From Health.com:

The average American’s life expectancy is 78.7 years. Whether you reach that age—or better yet, exceed it—largely depends on your genes.

From: Scientific American:

A person’s life span is thought to be largely determined by the combined effects of genetics and environmental factors. Research suggests that exceptional longevity — living one to three decades beyond the average U.S. life span of approximately 80 years — runs strongly in families.

So, genes is a huge factor in how long you’ll live — no matter how much of a health nut you are. Drink 1,000 oz. of water daily or never eat a donut — you still may inherit certain genetic variations that predispose you to certain diseases that’ll decrease your life expectancy.

Bummer.

But, that’s not what Strauss was suggesting or highlighting in the podcast (and not the reason I’m on a mission to understanding all of this).

This is more about understanding how current lifestyle choices impact your quality of life in your later years (if your genes allow you to make it to 70, 80, 90+).

Don’t invest in your health now with the assumption you’re simply extending your life (remember, you can only scientifically do that by a few years). Invest so that you have multiple decades of:

  • Waking up without debilitating pain
  • Avoiding major injuries & surgeries (think hip or knee replacements)
  • Vigor and energy for hobbies
  • Enjoying the sports you love (yes, I will still be Crossfitting in my 70s)
  • Travel without physical limitations (walk, explore, find, seek…make memories)
  • And of course, chasing your Grandchildren (without breaking something)

Nerd out on the Gene Data

If you’re curious, there’s vast amount of research around:

  • nonagenarians (people in 90’s)
  • centenarians (100’s)
  • semi-supercentenarians (105-109 years)
  • supercentenarians (110+)

My healthy lifestyle isn’t about adding years (it’s about adding QUALITY years)

This is a major paradigm shift.

This concept of a healthy lifestyle doesn’t guarantee a longer life expectancy is a big mental re-work. And for someone who just turned 40 — it couldn’t have come at a better time.

For years I’ve walked around thinking that I’m doing the little things to extend my life. Now I’m walking around thinking I’m investing in my health to improve my quality of life in the later years (and if I skyrocket past 78, cool too!)

Exercise is less about how I look (don’t get me wrong, I’m still a little vain), and more about paying it forward. I look different at my multi-collagen powder intake. I’m embracing fasting. I’m getting more scientific about my sleep (thanks Whoop band). I see my water intake as life giving. I think about workout recovery, stretching, and taking care of my body through a different lens.

These things now serve two-fold:

  1. Help me today
  2. Help me down the road

I may not be able to do CrossFit when I’m 90, but I’m certainly going to try. :)