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Life Extension Magazine

Fitness For Health And Longevity

Athletic Fitness vs. Health Fitness

Athletic Fitness vs. Health Fitness
By John Abdo - Fitness For Longevity,
Vol. 1, No. 1, March 1, 1995
(in Life Extension Magazine, No. 6, April 15, 1995)

Fitness For Longevity

What is the ideal degree of fitness for optimal health and longevity? Is there an ideal type of fitness for optimal health and longevity? Should there be changes in our fitness goals with advancing age? How can we find the time to achieve ideal fitness for health and longevity?

These are the kinds of questions we'll be answering in our new newsletter--Fitness For Longevity (FFL). Although much of the INFOrmation and advice we'll be carrying in FFL will help competitive athletes, the primary purpose of the newsletter is to help ordinary people--of both sexes and all ages--to develop individualized lifelong fitness programs designed for health, vigor, vitality, and longer life.

The resident fitness expert at FFL will be television celebrity John Abdo, an Olympic strength and conditioning coach and certified fitness trainer. John has dedicated his life to fitness, physical conditioning, athletic competition, and the pursuit of health and longevity.

Although John and other experts will provide you with the benefits of their knowledge and experience, FFL will also include reports about the latest research into the role of fitness in health and longevity, the best kinds of exercise for optimal fitness at any age, and the role of nutrition in achieving optimal fitness.

What follows is a comparison of the differences between athletic fitness and developing a lifelong fitness program for optimal health and longevity. If you have any questions about your fitness program, or how you can best develop such a program, send them to: Fitness For Longevity, Box 229120, Hollywood, FL 33022.

Athletic Fitness Vs. Health Fitness

For millions of years, the evolution of the human race involved natural selection of the fittest members of the group. The main attributes of those who survived were adaptive intelligence, intrinsic resistance to infectious disease, and physical strength and endurance. When the major threats to existence were predatory attack, lack of food, and pestilence, there was a very high premium on the ability to work hard physically, to have an inherently strong immune system, to be able to escape from one's enemies, and, generally, to be able to "live by one's wits" in a harsh, forbidding environment where danger lurked in every corner.

With the development of civilization and modern medicine, the rules of the game have changed. Today it is not necessary to work hard physically and ward off predators to survive. With the availability of antibiotics, antivirals, immune system stimulants, and the protections of society, it is no longer necessary to have an intrinsically strong immune system, natural strength and endurance, and the ability to flee one's enemies to survive.

In today's more protective environment, physical fitness is unnecessary early in life, but becomes more and more important with advancing age in order to fight off degenerative diseases and the infirmities of aging. As a result, it's become necessary to take conscious, deliberate action to achieve and maintain an adequate degree of physical strength, endurance, and flexibility to survive and enjoy oneself later in life. This requires the development of a personal lifestyle that includes controlled, habitual physical exercise supported by good nutrition, and the avoidance of dangerous habits such as cigarette smoking.

A Matter Of Choice

Today, when physical conditioning is a matter of choice rather than necessity, many people fail to develop a pattern of habitual exercise early in life, while others, who are highly active early in life, fail to maintain their physical activities when they take on the responsibilities of adulthood. In many cases, the decision to engage in habitual physical exercise early in life is influenced most strongly by athletic ability, with those who are athletically gifted being far more active than those who are not.

What Are Your Fitness Goals?

The fact that physical fitness is now a matter of choice has led to three general types of fitness goals--appearance, performance, and health status. Everyone who aspires to fitness is concerned, to one degree or another, about all three goals, but the degree of emphasis you place on these goals depends upon whether you are primarily interested in competitive athletics, image, or health and longevity.

If your primary interest is competition, your goals will be performance oriented. If your primary interest is image, your goals will focus on how you want to look. If your primary interest is health and longevity, your goals will involve the effects of fitness on resistance to diseases and the manner in which you age.

Although these three categories are to some extent separate and distinct, the fact is that those primarily interested in image are often just as performance-oriented as competitive athletes. The difference is that athletes focus upon performance as an endpoint, while image-seekers, such as body-builders, pursue performance goals as a means to the achievement of a better looking body.

At Fitness For Longevity, we will deal with performance and image as important fitness goals, but only within the context of helping you achieve better health and a longer life. FFL will not be a vehicle for the competitive athlete, although much of the INFOrmation and advice in these pages will be helpful to such athletes. Similarly, FFL will not be a vehicle for the image-seeker, although much of what appears in these pages will be helpful to those who want to look better.

At FFL, our central assumption will be that those whose primary fitness goals are improved health and longevity are also interested in looking better and achieving certain performance levels...but that such goals are secondary to their desire to stay alive, healthy, and youthful!

The Differences Between Athletic Fitness And Health Fitness

Before we get into the particulars of how to achieve health fitness, it's important to understand the differences between athletic fitness and health fitness. Many people aren't clear about these differences, while others let their intrinsic competitive zeal and tendency for addiction interfere with the achievement of health fitness.

I've seen supposedly non-competitive runners, for example, who become so addicted to running that they refuse to stop for any reason. These people will insist on going out for their "daily run" during a raging winter blizzard or searing summer heat spell. They often cannot bring themselves to stop running even after they develop serious leg injuries that require prolonged rest for healing and recuperation.

So let's be clear about the differences between athletic fitness and health fitness, and let's understand what our goals should be, how we can achieve them, and how we can keep from sabotaging ourselves.

Age And Athletic Competition

Athletic competition usually occurs early in life when we are youthful, strong, energetic, and capable of great endurance. Most athletes start to compete while they are still growing, while their psychoneurological skills are still developing, and while their bodies have not yet fully matured. In some fields, such as "women's" competitive swimming and gymnastics, the athlete's entire career is likely to be completed before she reaches full physical and emotional maturity. It's not unusual in these fields to find that an athlete's competitive career is over before the end of her teen-age years.

But even in sports such as track-and-field, baseball, basketball, and football, where physical maturation is required for peak competitive ability, athletes usually begin competing early in life, usually in school, and rarely continue to compete beyond their college years. Even those few who continue to compete as professional athletes usually stop in their 30s, when their skills, athleticism, and stamina start to erode. In some cases, athletes resume competing later in life through programs such as the "Senior Olympics", but such elderly competitors are few and far between.

Athletic Fitness And Life Expectancy

Because of the constraints of age, many competitive athletes go through extremely rigorous, controlled training programs aimed at achieving extraordinary levels of fitness and performance early in life, and then reduce their level of training drastically--or eliminate it entirely--during the rest of their lives. This is not a good prescription for health and longevity. The life expectancy of such athletes is significantly lower than average. However, when athletes maintain their fitness throughout their lives, they live significantly longer than average.

When scientists at the University of Helsinki studied the life expectancy of 2,613 male Finnish world-class athletes who competed in the Olympic games, World or European championships, or inter-country competitions during 1920-1965, they found that the longest-lived athletes (75.6 years) were those who engaged on a lifelong basis in endurance sports such as long distance running and cross-country skiing. On the other hand, athletes who engaged in power sports such as Boxing, wrestling, and weightlifting lived an average of 4.1 years less (71.5).

Health Fitness--A Lifelong Pursuit

Health fitness is not a goal that young people usually aspire to...in part because the risk of dying is low and very far from their minds, and in part because they're usually already physically active--in outdoor play or organized school activities--so that there's no need to make a conscious effort to pursue fitness.

Most fitness seekers are adults well past their days of glory. They're not trying to win a gold medal or show up a competitor, but only to get (and stay) "in shape". They're looking for a long-term fitness program that can be adjusted to their needs as they grow older. They understand that their anatomy has "matured", their reflexes have slowed, they've had illnesses and/or injuries that limit their flexibility and range of motion, and that their available time for such activities has diminished substantially.

Starting a program for health fitness thus requires setting realistic goals for each individual that takes into account his or her personal preferences, physical limitations, budget, available facilities, available time, and self-discipline.

Motivations Of Competitive Athletes

Competitive athletes are motivated by their desire to beat their opponents and thereby to--eventually--reap the rewards of their success, which may include fame, fortune, awards, and adulation--even if obtaining these rewards may be unrealistic or far in the future. As a result, training for the attainment of these goals becomes (where possible) a full-time occupation that takes virtually all their time, effort, and intensity.

In order to be successful as athletes, they must train hard and rigorously. Since they aspire to glory (even if only on a limited scale) and have to train hard, their commitment to do so is a given.

Motivations Of Those Who Pursue Health Fitness

If your goal is health fitness, on the other hand, your primary motivations are to feel better and to maintain (or improve) your health, with looking better as a special bonus. Since glory and competitive fires are not the driving forces behind your fitness program, and since you may have severe time constraints, the deciding factors in whether you succeed in your goals will be whether you are a self-starter, whether you have the self-discipline to maintain your program, and whether you're able to "work out" alone on a regular basis.

Remember, you won't have hard-driving coaches, crowds of spectators, hard-as-nails competitors, and the prospect of glory, fame, and fortune to "get your adrenaline flowing" and keep you "pumped up" when you'd rather be doing something else. Instead, you'll be able to work, sleep, eat, watch television, or do anything other than work out every day. In short, you'll have virtually complete freedom to be inactive. What this means is that the burden of achieving health fitness will be on you and you alone and your number one motivating factor will be how much you want to achieve (and maintain) health fitness.

Health Fitness Should Be Fun

Since no one can force you to train for health fitness, it's imperative that you engage in activities that are fun. If you don't enjoy exercising for fitness, you simply won't do it...at least not for long. Remember, health fitness does not mean working towards performance goals to compete effectively, set records, or win prizes. It does not mean turning your body into a smoothly-functioning "machine". It does not mean pushing ourself through pain and exhaustion in order to achieve ever-increasing levels of performance.

What it does mean is choosing an activity or health fitness regimen that you truly enjoy doing, varying your routine enough to maintain your enjoyment year after year, and monitoring how you look and feel on an ongoing basis. There are many programs that can make you look and feel better, protect you against diseases, and slow down premature aging on a short-term basis, but if you don't truly enjoy what you're doing, you're simply not going to continue doing it for the rest of your life.

What You'll Find In Fitness For Longevity

The overall purpose of Fitness For Longevity is to help you develop and maintain your own personal health fitness program. We'll provide you with INFOrmation about the effects of fitness on health and longevity; fitness activities for men and women of all ages; tips about scheduling, working out, and recuperating from work-outs; advice about the role of nutrition in achieving health fitness; and INFOrmation about (and how to obtain) products such as books, educational and training videotapes, supplemental nutrients, and exercise machines to help you in your quest for health fitness.

Improving The Fitness Of Your Waist

One way to keep your health fitness program fresh, interesting, and enjoyable is to set specific goals that fit in with your overall fitness goals. One such goal which can improve your appearance remarkably, is to narrow and firm-up your waistline. This involves reducing the amount of fat around your midsection, strengthening your lower back muscles, and increasing the tone, size, and strength of your abdominal muscles.

A narrow, firm waist is one of the keys to good posture, increased energy and endurance, and an improved appearance. Your waist is the center of your body and, as such, it defines your appearance. When your upper and lower body is improperly connected, natural body symmetry is ruined. The best shaped arms, shoulders, chest and upper back, supported by the shapeliest thighs, buttocks, and hips can never look good if the connection between the two (the waist) is out of proportion. Since your midsection is the largest region of your body without bone (that's why it's called the "abdominal cavity"), you need to develop adequate muscular support in this area to achieve correct body contour.

The fitness of your waist is also involved--directly and indirectly--in many common diseases and injuries. For example, a firm, fit waist (all the way around) helps to protect you against lower back injuries--the cause of an enormous amount of pain, suffering, and lost productivity in this country every year.

Most people who pursue fitness focus virtually all their attention on their arms, legs, chest, and the general aerobic conditioning that comes from walking, jogging, running, swimming, bicycling, and sports such as volleyball, basketball, tennis, and golf. About the only exercise anyone ever does that focuses on their midsection is sit-ups, which represent only a small part of the answer (when done correctly) to developing a narrow, firm, and healthy waist. Correct training of the waist involves attention to the sides and back in addition to the front.

John Abdo's "Waste-To-Waist" Video

The fitness Director of FFL, John Abdo, has developed the best abdominal training regimen in the world, which he demonstrates in his unique 45-minute video. John calls his video "Waste-To-Waist" because "having a fatty midsection is a waste of a waist" as is "a waist that has a lot of waste surrounding it." One example of the benefits of John's waist-shaping techniques is himself. Before he learned how to condition his waist properly--when he was in high school --John's waist was thick and flabby. Today, at age 40, John has a firm, narrow waist, with impressive, well-developed abdominal muscles.

John's "Waste-To-Waist" 45-minute video includes a total of 20 unique waistline exercises and three separate routines applied in circuits to work all muscle groups in effective sequences to provide benefits for the lower back, hips, legs, and buttocks as well as the waist. The three routines are: beginners, intermediate, and advanced to enable you to work on your waist at all levels of conditioning. You can start out at the beginner level and work your way up to the advanced level, or you can stay at any level you wish.

Another feature of the video is that--prior to demonstrating the routines--John explains each exercise with graphic anatomical descriptions, and then demonstrates exactly how and when you should perform each movement. The video is designed to enable you to develop the waist of your dreams in as little as 6 minutes every other day!

How to Obtain John Abdo's "Waste-To-Waist" Video

The retail cost of John Abdo's "Waste-To-Waist" video can be obtained through the Life Extension Buyers' Club. Or you can order this extraordinary health fitness video by calling: 1-800-841-5433.