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You must play to win the health-and-fitness lottery

Published November 09. 2019 01:30AM

Let’s say you’ve won the opportunity to throw 10 darts blindfolded for the chance to win 10 million bucks. All you have to do is stand 10 feet from the dartboard and hit the bullseye once.

What are your odds of winning the money? If you’ve never thrown darts before, it’s that oh-so annoying saying I heard so often growing up: “Slim or none — and Slim just left town.”

But if you’ve played darts since you were young and still play in a league at the local pub, Slim turns around. It’s not guaranteed that he returns in time, but if traffic is light and he doesn’t hit too many red lights, he just might.

And then you’re set for life.

Keep that in mind as we discuss another hypothetical game of chance, the health-and-fitness lottery. That’s another instance where your odds improve greatly if you’ve played regularly since you were young and you’ve continued to play.

“Playing” the health-and-fitness lottery means you regularly read articles on the topic looking for a recommendation or two, and then you experiment by using a variation of what’s suggested based on your goals or limitations.

Let’s hope something that you read today intrigues you enough to experiment.

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Have we finally found what Ponce de Leon was supposedly searching for? According to legend, the Spanish explorer who just happened upon Florida was not hoping to find a warm place in which to retire; he was looking for the fountain of youth.

Similarly, scientists hoping to regenerate the thymus, the gland that produces the T cells so important to the immune system but shrinks as you approach puberty, wound up reversing certain aspects of aging.

As explained in the study published this September in the journal Aging Cell, Professor Steve Horvath and colleagues working at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health used a mix of drugs for one year on 10 healthy adult males between the ages 51-65 and did regenerate the thymus to some degree. In doing so, they also improved the subjects’ average epigenetic age (the age of their genes) compared to their chronological age “by about 2.5 years.”

That Horvath and his cohorts achieved such results with humans and not lab animals is significant. Previous studies with a concoction of drugs administered to lab animals had had success similar to theirs.

A key drug that the human subjects received, human growth hormone (hGH), you may recognize. As likely as not, it’s one of the drugs you read about in articles about athletes who decide to disregard the rules and use performance-enhancing drugs.

Since you are not a professional athlete looking for an edge or a professional actor willing to drop 20 grand a year to look and feel as if you were in your 20s, you may be wondering how sharing a study like this “intrigues you enough to experiment.”

First of all, one of the natural ways to increase your production of hGH has been featured in former columns. Engaging in “heavy” weightlifting in the morning on an empty stomach increases hGH production.

Possibly even more important (because many readers are not interested or able to begin the day with a dose of intense exercise) is another discovery from the study. Metformin, a drug often administered to increase insulin sensitivity, was also used and helped reduce epigenetic aging.

Increasing your body’s insulin sensitivity is something you can do easily through diet — especially the type I tout. By keeping your main meals relatively small, 600 calories at the most; by eating frequently throughout the day, preferably every three hours; and by creating meals of mostly protein and complex carbs, your body secretes less insulin.

The less insulin your body secretes, the more likely your cells accept the glucose and amino acids that insulin offers them — and the less likely the cells will reject the offer and force insulin to dump what it’s carrying into your fat stores.

In short, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s a bit more than 35 years ago that I taught my first health-and-fitness course: “Simple Ways to Be Well.” One of the teachers who attended often stayed after class to ask pointed questions about how he could take what he had just been taught and apply it to his personal situation.

He didn’t like how he had been feeling, realized he hadn’t been eating as well as he should and not exercising as often as he might. In essence, his question were those blindfolded tosses of darts alluded to in the intro.

This teacher kept throwing and definitely hit the mark.

By the end of the summer, he had dropped 30 pounds even though that was not his foremost goal. More importantly, he felt better.

And because the changes he made were ones that he could do for life, that unwanted weight never returned.

So read as much as you can. Think a lot. Don’t be afraid to play the game and toss some darts.

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