The Key to Longevity: Organ Reserve

 style=The more lean muscle one maintains throughout life, the better his/her organs will function. Like muscles, our organs abide by the “use it or lose it” principle. Optimal organ function correlates with maximum longevity and excellent health, so says Mark Sisson. He states, “The aging process in America should really be called ‘the process of physical decline largely due to inactivity’”. Sisson, a healthy lifestyle guru, is the author of the Primal Blueprint and the blog He subscribes to the Paleo-style of nutrition (meaning meats, lots of veggies, fruit and avoiding grains, sugars and processed foods) and replacing typical cardio workouts with brief, intense strength sessions and occasional all-out sprints for better fitness benefits.

Sisson maintains that when we ask our organs to keep up with an active lifestyle, we’re strengthening them to better withstand the demands of daily life and the natural aging process. When our activity levels diminish, as often happens when we age, we’re sending signals that tell our muscles and organs to atrophy and decrease functionality. The unfit have lower bone-density, less lung capacity and heart stroke volume than the fit. Because organs and the systems of body rely on each other to function best, people are vulnerable to the often fatal effects of the weakest link. An accident victim or surgery patient who is unfit and has a heart operating at only 45 percent of potential capacity will often fare differently than a fit person with excellent heart enduring the same ordeal.

The good news is that we can continue to build muscle strength into advanced old age. The BBC reported that French researchers, writing in the Journal of Physiology, say adding the amino acid leucine to old people’s diets could help them keep muscle. Leucine is found in meat, soy beans and legumes, among other foods. Emory University concurs that moderate program of strength training promises real-world benefits to everyone, including couch potatoes and even frail older people. Benefits include reduced risk of osteoporosis – since strength training is an excellent weight-bearing exercise that encourages new bone growth – as well as increased stamina. Stronger bodies mean better immunity, as well as more zest for other recreational activities and daily living tasks. ~Helen Rickman