On Re-Reading Gifford’s Spring Chicken and Thinking About Improving My Health Span

Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (Or Die Trying)
Bill Gifford

I almost never re-read books. So the fact that I have now read Bill Gifford book on the science of aging twice should show you something about my current obsession with aging. As I said last time I read it, the book hits just the right point of science, personal reflection, and interesting anecdote. This stuff is catnip for someone like me – a middle age dude attempting to expand my “healthspan”* and maybe set some new PRs along the way.

My first read of this book was my gateway into following anti-aging research. This second read, and a lot of ancillary reading in this area, has left me focused on three things I’d like to incorporate more into my life: (i) fasting, (ii) cold exposure, and (iii) weight training. (I’ll likely write a separate piece about diet and supplements, which I’ve also been thinking a lot about, in the future)

Early research has shown that intermittent fasting, whether it be the popular 16/8 split or alternate day, appears to have a range of health benefits and no real down side. Assuming you’re a healthy person, and not at risk of developing an eating disorder, why wouldn’t you skip breakfast?

Same with cold exposure. Many, many health gurus talk up their ability to improve your health, but one of the few who has allowed his methods to really be tested is Wim Hof, who combines cold exposure and breathing techniques to, apparently, improve autoimmune system. Studies are starting to back up his claims (though some wonder if there’s a placebo effect happening).** Again, when done in moderation, there appears to be no downside to cold exposure. So why not take that cold shower?

Of the three listed above, weight training is the biggest no brainer. Unless actively engaged in strength training, a man my age could be losing up to 20% of their muscle mass. This combined with weaker core muscles and failing balance are leading causes in reducing one’s health span. So, while running remains my first love, I need to balance it with more time in the gym (and standing on one foot).

These three points are really just blips in this very informative book, but they’re the blips which stuck with me. Read it yourself to figure out what you can learn about getting older without breaking down.


* Health span is the period of your life when you are not only alive, but active and healthy
** I review the leading book on Wim Hof here.

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