If you’re not growing you’re dying

I’ve found over the years, my life has been much more fulfilled through growth in myself, and contributing to others. This has been fundamental to my happiness and is why depression, and negative thoughts, don’t enter my life. The past few months have been littered with high profile suicides. Anthony Bourdain, chef and travel journalist extraordinaire, ended his life recently. He had it all – fun, adventure, money, travel, great food and drink – what else could he want? Kate Spade was at the top of her career and was named as one of the Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company magazine before her life ended. I remember when Robin Williams, one of my most favorite actors, ended his life after bouts of depression. He accomplished so much, received a ton of accolades, but he still felt a need to not continue living. It is so sad.


What’s surprising about all of this is that these individuals reached the top of their game – so much so that it was tough to top what they’ve already done, or improve on their existing capabilities. They have worked so hard on being the best in their fields but in the end, it wasn’t enough. Dealing with depression and anxiety affected them because their model of the world isn’t what they expected. They needed fulfillment and couldn’t get it. One of the main methods for fulfillment is growth, and my belief, is for many of these successful people, it gets harder and harder to achieve the levels of growth they are accustomed to.


Since you were born, you learned skills as you went along. You learned how to walk, how to throw a ball, how to read, and how to play games. You were growing, and growing felt good. You can also see it in nature. A redwood tree will continue to grow, and continue to get more rings of bark, but when it stops, you know something is wrong. It starts turning from growing to dying.


Human skill, whether it’s playing guitar, or sailing a sailboat, is directly related to neural fibers in your brain and body, and the speed at which they function. The Talent Code, a book by Daniel Coyle, describes how the electrical pulses that send signals through your neurons and eventually into your muscles (when performing an activity) can strength and quicken by orders of magnitude, through deliberate practice and training. These nerve fibers (neurons), that originate in the brain, are wrapped in myelin. The myelin acts similar to insulation in a copper wire – it prevents the electrical impulses from leaking out. The more you practice and grow a skill, the more layers of myelin are created, and the faster and stronger the signals are transmitted (the layers grow like rings on the redwood tree).  This is why when you concentrate on developing a skill, you get better at it.


In children, your neurons get wrapped in myelin in waves, all the way until your 30’s. You keep gaining myelin until age 50 or so, at which point you might start losing a net total of myelin. However, you still retain your ability to myelinate throughout the rest of your life. This is why it is so important for us as we age, to continue working on our skills and increase myelination – if you don’t use it, you will lose it.


For me, I want to always keep growing, and getting smarter, better, and healthier as I age. I am always trying to get 1% better through reading, writing, learning and improving my skills (whether it’s guitar, sailing, languages, public speaking, etc.). There is a scientific concept called homeostasis – which is the tendency for a system (any system in general – but often a living system) to maintain its own balance and stability. The typical example is a thermostat which maintains a certain temperature in a room. If it gets too hot, the air conditioner turns on to regain balance. Your body also acts to maintain stability. If you’re lacking enough water, you get thirsty so you drink more water to regain the balance. If your blood glucose level (aka blood sugar level) gets high due to high carb intake, our bodies release the insulin hormone into our bloodstream from our pancreas. To maintain the glucose balance, the insulin tells your body to create more fat cells, ultimately from the glucose, and to stop using fat cells for energy (i.e. you get fatter) – yay, homeostasis!


You can also use the homeostasis principle to make yourself stronger. If you push your body hard enough and long enough, your body changes by increasing capillaries to handle more blood flow, it builds more muscle fibers, and your body can then handle the additional stresses in the future to maintain homeostasis. You have to keep pushing yourself harder to keep improving.


Like muscles, your brain improves, mostly through development of new connections and increased myelin. This is better done through skill building rather than practicing skills that you already know. So get better, practice, and build up new skills. Because if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Do you spend your time watching TV, taking in information that pollutes your mind (like obsessively watching the news or social media), and playing games on your phone?


Or are you getting better by learning a skill, building a business, writing a book or improving your fitness?


You only have a certain amount of time on this planet. Don’t spend it dying. Spend it growing. You’ll end up happier, more fulfilled, and able to contribute more to society, your family, and friends.

FitHealthy – Workouts and Health for Seniors

We have launched FitHealthy – our app for Health and Fitness for Seniors. Whether you want to live longer, get stronger, be healthier, have more energy, or change your diet, you’ll love FitHealthy.


See for yourself why FitHealthy is one of the most popular health and fitness app for Seniors.

Get tips from the premier experts in the industry on how to age better, get stronger, and healthier.

Watch videos from all of the best scientists and coaches.

Keep your favorite videos in a custom list for easy access. If you have a favorite workout, you can favorite the item to watch it when you workout.

Comment here if you have feedback or support issues.

Better Posture and Strength with Resistance Training and Exercise

As we get older we tend to lose strength and mobility. From the time we are born and until some time in your early thirties, our muscles tend to grow bigger and stronger. After your early thirties, you start to lose muscle mass. This effect is called sarcopenia, which is essentially muscle loss. Once you reach age 75, sarcopenia tends to increase rapidly, but this can vary to as early as 65 or as late as 80. This acceleration in sarcopenia is a major cause of frailty and fractures late in age.


Exercise, specifically heavy resistance training, is the major antidote to sarcopenia. We want to do this heavy resistance training to increase bone density, boost growth hormone, while also maximizing mobility. I’ll introduce some of my favorite experts on this topic.


Let’s start off with mobility…


Kelly Starrett – the Mobility Expert

Kelly has a background in physical therapy and stood up San Francisco CrossFit back in 2005, which was one of the first 30 CrossFit gyms at the time. He eventually created MobilityWOD – which is “the world’s most comprehensive database of guided movement, mechanics, and mobility instructional videos.”


One of Kelly’s tests is called the “Campfire Squat Test”, where you squat all the way down with your knees and feet together, and heels on the ground. If you’re missing hip range of motion or ankle range of motion, you will not be able to do this properly. Not having this range of motion is the main mechanism for hip impingement, plantar fascitis, bunions, torn achilles, and many other problems. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU LOOK AT HIP AND ANKLE RANGE OF MOTION. It is key to overall health, posture, and progression into resistance training. You need to obsess about this.



Next, let’s prioritize your spine. The spine has major potential to decrease your force production and is a critical factor in your posture.



You need to minimize movement in the spine and follow Kelly’s One Joint Rule as much as possible – movement should be in the shoulders or hip as much as possible when performing our normal movements (as well as movements under load).


Jerzy Gregorak – the 62 year old four time world champion olympic lifter 

I referred to Jerzy in my post about his podcast on the Tim Ferriss show. He started the Happy Body program, and has a wealth of information about fitness, mobility, nutrition, and overall wellness. He is also 62 and you can tell from his body that you can prevent or reduce the effects of sarcopenia at any age.


In this video he talks about the Olympic Squat – which is a key exercise for strength training. The most important aspect, however, is his discussion around posture and flexibility, which has applications across all types of squats.



It’s important that you lift carefully. Notice how he describes:
  1. Keep the chest up. Don’t think about the knees. Don’t round the lower back. Having your chest up is everything.
  2. Form is first. Form is the most important. Form, form, form, form. Do I need to say it again?


You need to have flexible hamstrings in the squat position and you should be able to be comfortable in that position. This is similar to what Kelly described in his video. The lack of flexibility is the cause of so many injuries. FLEXIBILITY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR.


Simple and Sinister program from Pavel Tsatsouline

Pavel Tsatsouline was a Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor and is now training US military and law enforcement. He is best known for introducing the Russian kettlebell to the West and is one of the main reasons kettlebells are now in so many gyms. He firmly believes that kettlebell training is a key to functional strength training. If you ask Pavel for the most effective exercises to do with kettlebells, it would be:
  1. One arm swing
  2. The get-up (aka the Turkish get up)
  3. The goblet squat


If you do these three every day, you will get a huge return on your investment. Please be safe. Remember mobility and flexibility is key. As you perform resistance training, you will find yourself getting stronger, gain the ability to retain muscle mass, and prevent sarcopenia, while improving your overall posture.

A Morning Routine Guaranteed to Make You Healthier and Happier

This is a straightforward, basic morning routine that I’ve used for years that helps my creativity, makes me healthier, and keeps my mind in optimal shape. It can all be done within an hour and WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE if you perform it regularly and make it a habit. Just try it for seven days and see what happens.

Here it is:

1. Exercise – I normally do 30 minutes a day, but you can go up to an hour or as little as 20 minutes.

As you’ll see in my other posts, I recommend some strength training depending on your level of fitness, and some amount of cardio. A brisk walk will also do – just get moving. You want to get the hormonal response with seratonin (which is a chemical in the brain that helps move messages through the nervous system) which will help your mood. Of course exercise will assist in keeping your muscles strong and your heart healthy.

2. Morning Pages/Journaling – I developed this habit after reading the Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron. This is one of my most recommended books on creativity.

The idea is that you should write three pages of anything you want every morning. These three pages should be unfiltered and non-judgemental. You can use it to talk about your past days events. Let’s say you had something bothering you – you should complain to the pages and get it out of your system. Maybe you have a problem you need to think through – put your thoughts onto paper and maybe you’ll think of an interesting idea. I like to write three things I’m grateful for, and this makes me happier and full of joy. Just the act of writing helps you think and exercises your brain in new ways. Getting new ideas and exercising creativity is a muscle, and as we get older it’s important that we use it.

3. Meditation – What do you think of when you think of meditation? Is it sitting in the lotus position under a tree, completely at peace, with your mind completely clear?

This is what most people think of, but in actuality, it’s just noticing what’s going on in your mind. Sometimes people call this “being present” and mindfulness. It’s impossible to make your mind completely clear and that is a completely useful goal. What you do when you meditate is sit for a period of time and try to focus on your breathing or something else on your body (like how the air feels on your skin, or how your feet feel on the ground). I recommend using the Headspace app or follow some of Sam Harris’ guided meditations here. Try to do it for five minutes first. It might be tough. The next day, try to do seven minutes. Eventually, work up to 10 minutes or more. At some point, if you go without meditation, you’re going to miss it. Just this one practice will have a huge impact.

Overall, these three tools will have a dramatic impact on how you live and how productive you will be. You’ll start the day completely energized, with new ideas and creativity. Your brain will work faster and you will be surprisingly sharper than before. Try it and let me know how it works out for you.

Aging and Autophagy

When people think about aging, they think of your body and mind deteriorating based on time. THIS IS THE WRONG WAY TO LOOK AT IT.

Your cells also have ways of cleaning up after itself using a mechanism called autophagy. Autophagy can clean up intercellular viruses, damaged proteins, bacteria, and other things. Based on recent research, the typical negative symptoms of aging may be a result of reduced effectiveness of autophagy. Can you believe it? The mechanism for cleaning up our cells is likely to be causing aging related deterioration of our bodies (and minds).

Autophagy clears away damaged cells to use for energy (as opposed to apotosis which causes damaged cells to self destruct). Both of these processes help kill cancer cells.

One theory is that the benefits of intermittent fasting (as well as caloric restriction), caffeine, green tea, metaformin, exercise, and other natural and synthetic compounds benefits your system because of the effects of autophagy. There is much more evidence for a linkage between autophagy and longevity, so being smart, and increasing your autophagy effectiveness will be extremely beneficial for increasing your overall health and lifespan.

The idea about aging is that over time your body may not be able to heal and generate new cells as it used to. It’s not deteriorating and it’s the cellular regeneration that we want to maximize.

Intermittent fasting, or time restricted feeding, is a primary method for increasing your autophagy effectiveness. Humans used to be hunter gatherers, and fasting regularly is a natural condition for us. Now we have fast food and multiple regular meals a day. Feeding actually damages cells instead of repairing them. By forcing ourselves to fast intermittently, it helps to promote repairs on your body. If you have cancer cells in your body (which all middle age or older people do), autophagy (through some form of fasting) will help kill cancer cells, decreasing your changes for getting cancer, hence improving your chances for a longer life.

Green tea and caffeine do help increase the autophagy in your body through an mTOR (inhibits autophagy through an insulin pathway) dependent mechanism.

So here’s a thought. Look at what you’re eating and how often you eat. Time restricted feeding, and intermittent fasting may be a route to increased longevity.

As always, talk to your doctor before changing your diet or exercise regime.

Jerzy Gregorak and the Happy Body

I recently listened to the podcast on the Tim Ferriss show. Jerzy is a 62 year old fascinating man, who has won four world weightlifting championships and established one world record. He also has an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

He created the Happy Body program that changes your fundamental relationship with food and exercise. They focus on functional movements to become truly lean and fit.

I highly recommend listening to this podcast to learn more about how to become healthier, in a safe, sustainable way.