The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
For today’s Dear Mark, I’m answering just a single reader question, but it’s a big one. Janice and her husband have endured their family’s light-hearted ribbing about their “caveman lifestyle” for years. Now that the paterfamilias of the clan is severely obese, almost 80 years old, and recovering from a relatively mild stroke, the family has turned to Janice’s expertise for help changing his ways. How can she convince her father that it’s never too late to get healthy? That changing your diet, exercise, and lifestyle can improve even the most unhealthy person’s trajectory and enjoyment of life? She’s confident that if she can just get through to her dad, the rest of the family—who also needs an intervention—will inevitably follow suit.
Let’s give it a shot:
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two reader questions. First, Will wonders whether his brother’s recent back injury from lifting a bag of mortar and his father’s lifelong bout with spinal stenosis following a deadlift injury should inform his exercise choices. Is the deadlift inherently risky? How prevalent is disc degeneration, and what does it mean? Then, Mike is a very active 52 year-old with a history of great blood pressure readings who’s been Primal for four months. At his latest checkup, his blood pressure and heart rate were elevated. Should he worry? What could it mean?
I’m mostly joking with the title. Though, considering how much I’ve written on this topic since starting this blog way back in 2006, it’s probably not too far off. And it’s not just me. Endurance training has been getting the snot beaten out of it in recent years. A variety of media outlets, TED talks, other blogs, observational research and clinical trials have all sounded the alarm about the dangers of excessive chronic cardio.
A new string of studies has found evidence of higher arterial plaque levels in the most active endurance athletes. This is becoming a trend. While endurance athletes tend to have more of the calcified kind of plaque, which is more stable and theoretically less prone to dangerous ruptures than less-calcified plaque, it remains worrying. I’ve spoken in the past about the proclivity toward heart problems found in endurance athletes. I know many former peers with atherosclerosis, cardiac arrhythmias, and other heart troubles.
Last week I took up the subject of health through the varying stages of life. What does health mean to us? How should we develop it or live it within the scheme of the different stages we go through as logistical events and developmental maturity shift the focus and parameters of our lives? How do our major milestones challenge our approach to well-being? Let’s pick up that topic again and finish off the discussion. I hope you’ll share your own thoughts on how differing stages of life influenced your thinking about health and what approaches fit the times best for you.
Last month, the NY Times Well Blog dropped a piece discussing the results of a recent study of how endurance runners alter their stride as they age. Investigators observed a group of 110 experienced runners aged 23 to 59 making their way around a track. Runners under 40 tended to display greater lower leg activity as they ran, whereas runners over 40 showed impaired lower leg activity. The latter relied more on their hip musculature (the absolute activity of which was still lower than that of younger runners) and showed an impaired “push off”; they had weaker strides and didn’t rise up as high off the ground. Overall, the older runners used their ankles and calves less without increasing hip musculature activity to cover the difference. They just got slower.
Print this out. Bookmark it. Send it to friends who don’t quite get the Primal thing. Consider this a valuable resource for all-things Primal. It’s a nice, alphabetical encapsulation of what it means to lead a Primal lifestyle. It’s not everything, of course. You can always dig deeper into the details, but this summary gives a high-level look at just about everything.
Without further ado, I present The A-to-Z Guide to Leading a Primal Lifestyle.
Avoid chronic cardio. I spent about half my life running (and later, with triathlons, swimming and cycling) myself into the ground. I thought the more miles I could log, the healthier I’d be. That’s the mindset many people have, and it’s absolutely wrong. Running a ten-miler is different than running a ten-miler every day. We have the capacity to go long distances and even outlast wild animals upon which we’re preying. We don’t have the capacity to do that every single day without consequences to our health. Run long distances if you love it, compete if you love competing, but know the cost it incurs.