Outlive: How to Improve Longevity and Quality of Life
Recently, I finished reading a book (well, technically listening to it on Audible), called Outlive by Peter Attia. The book is all about the incredible impact of nutrition and exercise on our overall health, and packed with up to date research and advice.
It’s one of the best books I’ve listened to for a long time. And one of the things I loved most about it is that it highlights the fact that we need a fitness plan for life.
Not a 6 or 12-week program for rapid weight loss, that only leads to putting all the weigh back on again.
We need a plan that will help us be fit, healthy, strong, functional, and able to live our best lives. Both now and into our 70s, 80s and 90s.
Three key areas stand out in the book, that enable us to achieve those goals:
- The impact of strength in our life
- The importance of protein in our diet
- The incredible health benefits of cardio exercise
Below are my biggest takeaways for each of these, and tips on how to improve or incorporate more of it in our day-to-day activities.
1. How a strong body (and strong grip) can change your life
Did you know that the better your grip strength is, the lower your risk of dementia?
According to research: if your grip strength is in the bottom 25% for your age and gender, you are 72% more likely to develop dementia than if you are in the top 25%.
There are even studies that suggest your grip strength is a predictor of how long you are likely to live.
Now, this isn’t to say that it’s purely the strength of our grip that influences our health. Essentially in these studies, grip strength is representing our general strength, and how active we are in life.
If you have strong grip, you are more likely to be lifting heavy things – weights in the gym, shopping or other physical objects. This means you’re working your muscles, moving, and keeping your body strong. Stronger grip means you’re likely to have more muscle, and this has been shown to have a huge impact on the length and quality of our lives.
Without regular lifting and carrying in some form, our grip will weaken over time. As your grip strength weakens, you’re less able to lift and carry household items, be independent, or do cognitive tasks that involve your hands. This will all reduce your ability to live an active and varied lifestyle.
Grip, and overall strength, is something we can improve at any age.
Here are a few exercises that will do just that:
- Farmers lift, with heavy dumbbells or kettlebells
- Dead hang (hang from a bar)
- Pull ups or pull downs
- Any form of deadlifts
- Rows with weights (e.g. dumbell rows, barbell rows, kettlebell rows or machine rows)
Grip trainers can improve your grip, and are not a bad tool, but don’t let that take the place of some of the exercises listed here. The exercises mentioned above not only target your hands but also your arms, shoulders, back, and core, so they will be far more beneficial overall.
2. The importance of protein in our diet
In Outlive, Peter Attia discusses protein at length, and strongly emphasises its in importance to our health.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts and podcast episodes, protein is vital to helping us maintain or build muscle and strength. It’s key to us staying active, uninjured, independent, and enjoying life to the full. Protein helps empower us to keep doing the activities we love well into our later years.
As we get older, we need to eat more protein because our bodies are less able to digest and use it properly.
An ideal range at any age is 1.6 – 2g of protein per kg of your target body weight.
As an example, if your target weight is 68kg (150 pounds or 10st):
68 x 2 = 136g of protein to aim for each day.
Note: it doesn’t have to be this exact. For the vast majority of women, 100 – 140g protein is a great range to be in.
More protein in your diet helps your body build and strengthen muscle. This, in turn, increases your metabolism, which helps you burn more calories per day. One of the major benefits that many people aren’t aware of is that having more muscle lowers your risk of high blood sugar, diabetes and other related diseases. And you look toned and feel great in your clothes.
Eating more protein also means you stay fuller for longer, which makes it easier to both lose fat and maintain your goal body weight.
3. The benefits of cardio exercise
Did you know that going from the bottom 25% of vo2 max fitness for your age and gender, to just below average, could cut your risk of death nearly in half?
This means, if you currently do very little exercise, doing just a small amount of cardio each week will significantly improve your fitness and health. And even if you improve it to a point where it is still below average, but better than it was, there is a very good chance you will have added extra years to your life.
So what is your VO2 max?
Basically, your Vo2 max fitness is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense exercise.
When you exercise regularly, your body adapts. Your cells become more efficient, and you are able to to use more oxygen.
A 2018 study of 120,000 people reported that a higher vo2 max is closely linked to a significantly lower risk of mortality.
This study also showed that if your vo2 max is below average for your age and sex (that is the bottom 25% – 50%) your risk of all-cause mortality is double when compared to someone in the top 25%.
Thankfully, much like other aspects of our health, we can improve our vo2 max levels at any stage of life. And one of the best ways to do this is by training in zone 2.
Zone 2 Training
Training in zone 2 refers to working out at an intensity that increases your heart rate, but is about a 4-5 out of 10 for effort.
This is an intensity where you can say a short sentence, and then would have to take a breath. Usually it puts you at around 65 – 75% of your max heart rate, and has significant benefits to your health and fitness.
To reach zone 2 intensity, you can do any form of cardio exercise like running, cycling, cross-training, rowing, swimming, and so on.
Doing this 2-4 times a week, for 20-60 minutes (or more) at a time is ideal. But the most important point (as always) is to remember that something beats nothing. Whatever you can realistically and consistently do is great, and it will add up.
A good starting point for incorporating cardio exercise into your routine is to aim for two 20-minute sessions per week. And the great thing about this type of training is that it won’t wear you out, or make you ache the next day. It can be a brilliant way to get some movement in, clear your mind, and give you that exercise buzz, without needing to lie down after.
Intervals and Vo2 max Training
Our bodies thrive when given a variety of challenges. Zone 2 training is steady and fairly comfortable, and great to do regularly. In addition to this, what we also hugely benefit from, is adding a session of higher intensity intervals.
Now, I would say, in a weird way, these can actually be quite fun.
Interval training is where you do short, fast bursts of cardio – work hard, recover for a short time, and then go again. This is usually repeated for a period of 10 to 40 minutes, depending on your fitness level and the length of the intervals.
In Outlive, Peter Attia recommends doing Vo2 max interval sessions once a week. In these sessions, you work hard for 3 to 8 minutes, rest for the same amount of time, and then repeat for 4-6 total rounds.
However, for my online coaching clients, who usually have various family, work and life commitments, I often set shorter workouts interval targets. Again, it’s so important to remember that something always beats nothing.
Below is an example of an interval session that I typically recommend:
- 3-minute cardio warm-up on any machine of your choice.
- 20 – 60 seconds where you go hard and fast
- 40 – 60 seconds of slow recovery
Repeat this 4 to 8 times.
Then finish off with a 3-minute cool down.
To Sum up How to Improve Longevity and Quality of Life
Outlive by Peter Attia brilliantly demonstrates the absolutely incredible impact that nutrition and exercise can have on our lives. It’s an inspiring read and I’d definitely recommend checking it out. Moreover, it steers the conversation away from just ‘losing weight’ to instead improving our health, fitness, strength, and living a life we love well into old age.
You can find the book here (it’s great in hard copy or on amazon Audible):
My podcast on this episode is here:
There are plenty of ideas and inspiration for strength training, protein, and more, on my Instagram page here:
And to find out more about online coaching, check out more info here: