3 Hacks for Longevity
You might be surprised to hear of three top factors correlated with longevity – especially #3! Focus on these and your pay offs in overall health – and increased longevity – will delight you. Remember, start where you are and keep leveling up. You are NEVER too old, too young, too “out of shape” or too “in shape” to learn and improve!
- Lung capacity
- Muscle mass
- Hamstring flexibility.
1. LUNG CAPACITY
What does your ability to fill and empty your lungs have to do with how long you’re going to live?
What Happens When You Breathe
When you breathe air into your lungs, oxygen from that air moves to your blood. At the same time, carbon dioxide, a waste gas, moves from your blood and is exhaled. This is the essential life process known as “gas exchange,” happening within the tiny balloon-shaped air sacs in your lungs.
Everyday functions of the body like digesting your food, moving your muscles or even just thinking need oxygen. And after those functions are complete, carbon dioxide – a poisonous gas – is produced and must be moved out of your blood.
This process involves the many parts of your respiratory system: trachea (windpipe), diaphragm, chest muscles, blood vessels and of course those alveoli. Your brain and nervous system are involved, too, telling you how fast or slow to breathe, informed via signals from your body, which detects how much oxygen and carbon dioxide are in your blood.
Greater lung capacity completes this task more efficiently and rapidly, and gets the carbon dioxide out better. Shallow breathing retains the carbon dioxide, and carries risks.
Shallow breathing risks:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Reduced focus
- Impaired cell metabolism
- Impaired thinking and reduced cognitive function
- Increased cortisol, which accelerates aging
- Sleep disturbances
- Pain, including headaches and pain in the neck and upper back due to the disengagement of the diaphragm.
- Reduced physical ability – less endurance
- Poor posture
- Exacerbation of respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD
- Anxiety cycle, with hyperventilation
Benefits of deep breathing (increased lung capacity):
- Gaining more oxygen, expelling more poisonous carbon dioxide
- Natural relaxation
- Reduced stress
- Stabilization of blood pressure, mood, heart rate
- Natural toning of diaphragm and abdominal muscles
- Better deep sleep, where apoptosis and autophagy occur for restorative healing
- Greater capacity for exercise
How to increase your lung capacity
- Movement – Cardiovascular activity, optimally 20-30 minutes every day. Strive for 10-20 minutes of huffing and puffing. A great way to get that breath going is HIIT, or high intensity interval training, going all out for a short period of time, then slowing down, then high intensity again, then slowing down again. There are some great beginner HIIT routines on YouTube.
- Breath work. Regularly and intentionally breathing down into the nooks and crannies of your lungs with organized breathWORK is fantastic to increase your lung capacity.
2. MUSCLE MASS
Muscle is an active metabolic tissue in your body – just like fat is. It plays specific roles in your health, all of them important to a long, healthy life.
Benefits of Muscle Mass:
- Better managed blood sugar
- Better strength and stamina
- Better joint support
- Stronger bones, ligaments and tendons
- Increased metabolic rate, which burns body fat
- Helps to regulate emotional state
- Injury protection
- Decreased disease risks (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease)
- Ease of movement through everyday activities
- Better hormone regulation
- Muscle gives you shape.
How to increase your muscle mass
Start slow but increase difficulty as you get stronger and more confident. I’m going to give you some tips you’ve probably heard before, but also some “tricks of the trade” from my 38-year career as a chiropractor that you may not know:
- Weight training. This is a perfect way to increase your muscle mass. If you are new, employ a trainer to get you on a good injury-free routine.
- Resistance work, using elastic bands or machines
- Yoga and other body-weight exercises
- Sleep! Get 8 hours per night.
- Intermittent fasting
- HIIT (high intensity interval training)
- No sugar, no alcohol, no “energy” or “preworkout” drinks with sugar: they tear up your muscles as the sugar rushes into your muscles (80% goes there instead of your liver) causing inflammation and oxidative stress as your body tries to “burn out” the sugar as quickly as possible, inciting a toxic cycle. Also taking the hit? Your collagen, tendons, cartilage and even your eyes.
3. HAMSTRING FLEXIBILITY
A flexible hamstring takes pressure off of your sciatic nerve, which goes from your big toe up into your low back.
The Stress Caused by a Tight Hamstring
If your hamstring is tight, that big glorious sciatic nerve is getting pulled and in turn, is pulling on your spinal cord…which is connected to your lower (or hind) brain. When that happens, your brain (which ends below your skull) actually gets pulled out of position, farther down into your neck area than is optimal.
When your brain gets pulled on, that creates an adaptive stress response and increased cortisol creation…inciting a “fight or flight” survival cycle, instead of a “rest and digest/feed and breed” nervous system state of being.
We often think of stress as only emotional, but it can just as commonly be physiological. If your physical body is in pain, or out of position, or inflamed, you will create stress hormones just the same as if you were under emotional stress.
The results of a tight hamstring represent just such a physiological stress.
How to Increase Hamstring Flexibility
Again – some strategies you may know but a few “tricks” I bet you don’t!
- Yoga – so many common moves are great at increasing hamstring flexibility.
- Massage the bottom of your foot (especially that plantar arch) with a golf ball – firm pressure, can be done seated; roll it around 3 times a day for about 10 minutes.
- Foam roller – use your body weight to bear down onto a roller placed behind your knee and up into your hamstring.
- Calf stretching – elevate your toes a bit and bend your knees to get a good stretch. No bouncing.
- Forward fold, seated or standing.
- Firmly massage the base of your skull with your thumbs, beginning from lower in your neck for about 10 minutes at a time, several times a day (really up to 10 times a day is fine). This seems crazy, but it really works.
Live long and prosper! Keep your lung capacity strong, your muscle mass up, and your hamstrings flexible. These 3 areas are worth your focus to get healthy and stay that way.
Pass this along to someone who might need to read it.
Always looking out for you,