How Movement Extends Life

The very words, “Life Extension”, mean, “to extend one’s life”. Simply having adequate
nourishment, water, and protection from harmful exposure, along with avoiding danger, would be the somewhat obvious steps to achieving this goal.

When it comes to extending one’s life, the consensus is that genetics and lifestyle both have a role. We can’t change who our parents are, but we can certainly make good lifestyle choices. Maintaining optimal body weight through the management of caloric intake has profound benefits. However the idea of adding movement and activity is rarely exploited by so- called “Life Extensionists”.

This is a big mistake because exercise and physical activity are an integral part of one’s health and longevity.

The mere ability to run, walk, or crawl to escape danger is, in fact, a method of life extension. At some point in your life the ability to climb out of a burning car, swim in a flood, or scale a fence may become more important than an exotic medication. Jumping out of the way of an oncoming vehicle or falling object is again, life extending. Aside from these dramatic examples, the decline of conditioning, health, and life force from a broken hip to bed bound, to death is quite alarming. When we can’t move or have limited movement, we are that much closer to death.

There is mounting evidence that exercise and movement are not only an ingredient of the complete “Life Extension” equation, but perhaps the most powerful one. The effect is far-reaching, economical, and apparently quite potent. To ignore the age-reducing and health-giving effects of exercise is to turn a blind eye toward one of the most effective tools in the arsenal of those who want to age healthfully.

There are dramatic advantages to movement and exercise. A review called, “Does Physical Activity Increase Life Expectancy? A Review of the Literature contained this statement,

“All studies proved an increased life expectancy in endurance athletes ranging between 2.8 to 8.0 added years.”

This is rather significant. A lifestyle addition that not only improves the quality of life, but the length of it as well. That lifestyle addition is exercise.

The ability to exercise or move can also be a measure of aging. Certainly strength, endurance, and flexibility can be reduced by aging and inactivity. However, we also lose precious muscle mass. This is called “age-related sarcopenia”. It is, in fact, quite dramatic. While the scale may vary only 10 to 15 pounds from your youthful weight, what is going on with body composition is a different story. According to the paper, "Sarcopenia: Causes, Consequences and Preventions"

“The average adult can expect to gain approximately 1 pound of fat every year between ages 30 to 60, and lose about a half pound of muscle over that same time span; that change in body composition is equivalent to a 15-pound loss of muscle and a 30-pound gain in fat.”

One may ask if maintaining strength and muscle mass affect longevity as well as general health, appearance, and mobility. That answer is a resounding YES! According to a study headed by Dr. Jennifer L. Kraschnewski, assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences, Penn State College of Medicine,

Older adults who strength trained at least twice a week had 46 percent lower odds of death for any reason than those who did not. They also had 41 percent lower odds of cardiac death and 19 percent lower odds of dying from cancer.”

There is a simple test to determine aging through movement as designed by Brazilian physician Claudio Gil Araujo.

"A total of 2002 adults aged 51 to 80 years old participated in the study. The researchers timed how long it took them to sit up and then rise from the floor without any help. They told the participants to try and sit up with the least amount of support that they believe necessary, and not worry about their speed. They scored the participants' ability to both sit and rise. For each time the participants used support from their hand, knee, or other part of their body the researchers would subtract a point. [A total composite score out of 10 was assigned to them.] Participants with scores below 8 had mortality rates 2 to 5 times higher than those with scores ranging from 8-10. The authors noted: a 1-point increment in the [sitting-rising] score was related to a 21% reduction in mortality."

[ Brito LBB, Ricardo DR, Araujo DSMS, et al. Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention, 2012; DOI: 10.1177/2047487312471759 ]

We can imagine testing grade school children on the “sit and rise test’’ versus residents of a nursing facility. The comparison would be vivid. However, we can’t avoid middle ground. Simply observing individuals of various age groups getting up off the ground will tell you all you need to know about how people age at different rates.

The formula for Life Extension would then include proper nutritional intake, avoiding accidents, and exercise. Like the three legs of a stool, the absence of any one leg makes the stool unstable.

About the Author: Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and conditioning since 1972. With an early background in wrestling and a student of the methods of the York Barbell Club, Tom immediately separated fact from fiction growing up outside Pittsburgh. Eleven members of his family were combat veterans, the most famous one being “Uncle Charlie” (Charles Bronson)

His down-to-earth training methods are derived from his decades-long practice of martial arts and his study of exercise science. The application of force, improvement of movement, and durability rank high on his list of priorities when training. He gives credit to hundreds of hours of seminars, training sessions, and ”backyard” workouts, including training time with many martial arts legends. He also credits his incredibly gifted training partners who came from varied backgrounds such as Exercise Physiologists, Airborne Rangers, Bounty Hunters, Boxing Trainers, and Coast Guard Rescue Divers. Tom is the creator of the popular DVD “ConcreteConflict & Conditioning” which integrates strength, movement, and physical combat. He is the author of the Amazon book, "Bamboo Gods, Iron Men and Rubber Bands" as well as being the creator of the "Armor of War" training method. His website is:


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