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Hang On for Your Life

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Sure, you can deadlift 400 pounds, but how’s your grip strength? A heavy lift will rank you high in the WOD and earn you accolades from your gym mates, but will it help you live any longer? And yeah, you can run like the wind from the bike shop to Dark Horse, but how’s your VO2 max? What does that even mean?

When Dr. Peter Attia came on the Joe Rogan podcast, he made the case that exercise is the golden ticket for longevity. We don’t have medicines yet that can improve longevity the way proper exercise can. “Your risk of death from having high cardiorespiratory fitness goes down much more than your risk of death goes up from smoking or having diabetes.”

According to Dr. Attia, smoking and having diabetes will double or triple your risk of death. However, having very high cardiorespiratory fitness is a five-fold reduction in mortality death from any cause! Now, high cardiorespiratory fitness means your VO2 max is in the top 2.5% of the population, but there are ways we can all improve our VO2 max and increase our defense against health risks.

Having very high cardiorespiratory fitness is a five-fold reduction in mortality…death from any kind!

VO2 max stands for maximum oxygen consumption – the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can use during intense exercise. This marker is sometimes referred to as the ultimate measure or fitness. Dr. Attia explains that anyone can work to increase their VO2 max even if they don’t have a history of exercise.

Once a basic aerobic endurance is established, he recommends what sounds very much like HIIT training: four minutes on a stationary bike as hard as you can, four minutes off, and repeat. Putting our body in high output training will increase our VO2 max and put a bulletproof vest around your health.

Strength, he explains, is more important than muscle mass in terms of longevity. The metric that saves your life isn’t how much you can bench or deadlift – it’s grip strength, dead hangs, air squat holds, and other measurements of that nature. “It’s a three-fold reduction in all-cause mortality when you compare high strength to low strength.”

One of the favorite strength tests at Dr. Attia’s clinic is the dead hang, meaning how long can you hang onto a bar completely relaxed.

The clinic holds males to the standard of two minutes, and females to a minute and half…at the age of forty!

You read that right – anyone else feeling really good about their strength? But like anything else, if this is something we don’t practice we can’t hope to magically get better. Dr. Attia himself does a dead hang set after a workout twice a week, and perhaps it’s something we should add to our routine.

The benefits of increasing our strength and cardiovascular health can give our health a three to five-fold boost against mortality, and keep those doctors away so we can thrive like the athletes we are.

I sense a dead hang contest in the works! The last time we tested this in the gym we had two members that held out for over 5 minutes!! Let’s see who can top that?!

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