Your goal shouldn't be just for a long life but to LIVE a long healthy, active life, doing the things you want to do.
Tom Burns, Ludus Gym Founder, 12/09/23
Our risk of Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes and Cancer all increase as we age. What can we do to improve our risk of not developing these diseases, improve our chances of surviving or even reversing them?
If you develop any of the above conditions and go to see your Doctor they may provide you with a prescription of drugs you can take to 'manage' your symptoms. A lot of these drugs will cause further health problems, where you will then be given another prescription to deal with that issue! This spiral goes on and your health continues to deteriorate. Doctors may also recommend you to lose some weight and to do more exercise. However, vague advice that we already know, wont solve the problem.
Some may argue that yes our life expectancy is always increasing due to improvements in medicine. Whilst this may be the case for some conditions, as Dr Peter Attia describes in his book 'Outlive', there is a big difference between life expectancy and health expectancy. For example someone who lives an extra ten years due to taking medication but has type 2 diabetes and is bed bound due to obesity is not living these last ten years as a healthy thriving human.
I have spent the last eight years of my life coaching adults mainly between the ages of 18-60 how to become healthier, happier and stronger through effective exercise and nutrition habits. These same habits are the answers to thriving and not just surviving into your 70's 80's 90's and beyond.
It is harder for those in their later years to find the information and resources to take control of their own health without relying on prescription medication. This guide will outline why building lean muscle mass is so important and most importantly, how to do it.
Why Is Lean Muscle Mass So Important?
Muscle mass starts to decline around the age of 40 by 8% every 10 years until the age of 70 where the decline accelerates to 25-40% every 10 years.
Less muscle mass directly relates to a greater risk of death from liver diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. Therefore, the greater lean muscle mass you can hold onto as you age, the greater likelihood you will survive any of the above diseases.
The process of building lean muscle has so many more benefits other than simply having a greater life expectancy. Through physical exercise and good nutrition habits, endorphins are released which are our natural painkillers and mood elevators. Dopamine also increases with exercise which decreases stress and depression.
And the good news is that to get all these benefits you don't need to hire a Personal Trainer or even go to an exercise class. As we will discuss there are four pillars that you can follow at home to build lean muscle.
The Four Pillars To Build Lean Muscle At Home
Before we dive into the four pillars, I want to tell you a story of why I am writing this article.
I have had an amazing childhood and early adulthood and this is mainly down to how I was raised by my parents and grandparents. The love given, sacrifices made and values instilled in me to be the man I am today. However seeing the natural causes of aging leading to diseases in my family has left me feeling helpless. Whilst I understand that natural aging is inevitable and also something to be cherished, I am not prepared to sit here and let outdated beliefs instilled in us by the media and conventional medicine dictate my families future.
These four pillars are written for my family so that they can continue to live their lives to their full and hold off disease for as long as possible. I am hoping they will be of benefit to you and your family too.
Pillar 1- Squat
The ability to squat is a functional movement that you need to use everyday to get out off your chair and off the toilet. The squat is a great all round exercise that will build and strengthen lean muscle in the lower body and can be done at home with no equipment needed.
Like the other three pillars the squat has progressions from basic through to more challenging.
Progression 1- Assisted Chair Squat.
Have a helper stand in front of a chair whilst you are sitting on the chair. You are going to stand up trying to use your legs as much as possible whilst holding onto your helpers hands. Start by placing a few cushions on the chair so that the squat is a small distance. As your confidence builds try to do this without holding onto your helpers hands and then progress by removing cushions until you are squatting down to the chairs height.
Progression 2- Air Squat.
Now we take away the chair, however you must ensure you are squatting to the same height as the chair or lower if possible.
Progression 3- Add Resistance
Hold a weight by your chest to work the muscles harder.
There are many many more progressions after this, if you want more of a challenge I recommend joining a gym to use their equipment and expertise.
Pillar 2- Walk
Daily walking provides you with strength, fitness, mental and social benefits. Your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) needs to be worked in order to function optimally. Moving your body to increase your heart rate and feel out of breath will build your fitness, fill your body with feel good endorphins and release dopamine to fight off depression.
Daily Walking doesn't need to be a big adventure everyday. Often during the winter it may be unsafe to go out and walk. However if you don't keep walking, when the weather improves you wont have the ability to do the adventures that you want to.
Therefore you need to be creative. Walking up and down your hallway for 10,20,30 minutes will have the same physical benefit of a walk outside for the same time. Why not set yourself a challenge of going up and down your stairs for multiple repetitions. Start with 2 or 3 times and build it up to 20 or even 50, why not!
We all remember the creativity and hard work of Captain Tom who walked 100 lengths of his garden at the age of 100. You can do this too, start small, be consistent and reap the physical and mental rewards.
Pillar 3- Carry
Throughout our human history one of the most physical actions our bodies have developed to do is to carry things. Whether its carrying a heavy bucket of water from a well or our entire belongings across countries to new settlements. The lives we live now are designed for convenience which has resulted in many of these tasks not being essential. Therefore to have our bodies thrive as they were designed we must use them as they were designed.
You can carry anything, it doesn't have to be a kettlebell or in both hands either, there are many benefits to single arm carries or an object that you need to hold with two hands on your chest. Look around your house and garden for something that you think of as heavy. A filled watering can, a pot of paint, a heavy bag or even a filled cardboard board box, get creative. If its hard to hold then it is working and building your grip strength. You need to only walk with your object for a total distance of 20m daily.
In my early twenties before founding Ludus gym I fashioned some handles into two pine logs and would carry them up and down the road outside of my parents house. And yes I got many many funny looks! You can stick to a few laps of your garden or even your hallway.
Studies show that grip strength is directly associated with health and life expectancy, therefore this movement is essential for a long and prosperous life.
Pillar 4- Push
If we breakdown the function of the muscles in our upper body, they are designed for both pushing (moving things away from us) and pulling (moving things closer to us). The carries you will be doing will be training your pulling muscles.
You also need to be strong at pushing, because if you fall and you haven't got the upper body pushing strength to help get you off the floor, you are in trouble.
This one if super simple, you are going to do an elevated press-up. The higher you start this exercise the easier it will be and to progress the difficulty, you will lower your hands onto a lower object.
Start by placing your hands on a wall, bend your elbows to your sides don't move your feet and allow your bodyweight to shift towards the wall and push yourself back until your elbows are straight.
Exactly the same exercise, now your hands are going to be on the back of a sofa or a kitchen surface.
Essentially the lower your hands are to the floor, the difficulty increases. Get creative with objects to use but make sure they are sturdy!
Start Small and Reap the Rewards
Without your strength you will lose your independence, so we need a consistent plan to keep our bodies and minds strong and thriving. There is no perfect amount of repetitions for each of the four pillars. The main goal is that you do them and do them consistently. A daily routine could look like this;
1. Chair Squat,
-Perform 10 repetitions at a high height, rest for a minute or so
-Another 10 repetitions at a slightly lower height, rest
- Perform 10 repetitions at a high height, rest for a minute or so
(Each week you can then increase the repetitions to 12,14,16 etc)
- Lift your chosen implement and walk with it down your hallway and back to where you started, rest and repeat for a total of 4 times.
- Make these very easy and build up the repetitions before increasing the difficulty.
- Perform 20 repetitions, rest, 4 rounds
- Decide whether you will go somewhere, i.e shops or around the block, or whether you want the challenge of walking up and down the stairs for multiple repetitions.
- This can vary daily as much as you want and is a nice way to finish your training.
A few small disciplines practised everyday starts to create success. The days where you don't feel like doing this are the important days that you must continue with your training. Not everyday needs to be a big walk or hundreds of squats. Five chair squats and two laps of your garden may be all you can manage for some days. This is success as you are re-enforcing the habit and training your body and mind to remain strong and healthy.
If you would like to perform these exercises in a safe, friendly environment with other people and a coach to ensure you are performing the exercises correctly, then I recommend that you join an exercise class or a gym.
At Ludus Gym we run small group classes designed for those of you in your 'Golden Years'.
These classes run every, Monday and Thursday at 1pm. If you would like more information regarding these classes follow this link- https://www.ludusgymmonmouth.com/service-page/golden-years
Or if you have any question about any of the exercises or need any extra assistance, don't hesitate to contact me on;