Unusual sport against dementia, age-related decline, and Monthy Python workouts

Welcome to Long Youthspan, the swirling online vortex of late-breaking longevity news. I’m your host, the Youthspan Hound.

Every day, I head to the local park to dig up the latest longevity-related research. I sniff at it critically, and if I have to, I give it a lick. I then only keep most practical, most inspiring, or most silly longevity news items. I’ve got one of each for you today. So let’s get going.


A little-known sport for better long-term brain health

John Travolta, trying to find the next marker on the map. He might look confused but his brain is actually in tip-top shape.

What's the news: Orienteering, the sport that has you running towards a finish line across unmarked terrain with naught but a map and a compass, is good for your brain. And probably for your body too.

Why should we believe it: This news is based on a Jan 2023 study from McMaster University. The study looked at 158 adults. Some had no orienteering experience. Some had moderate experience. Some were elite orienteers (orienteerists?).

The upshot was that orienteering experts reported better spatial processing and orientation than controls.

Why is this a big deal? The promise is that all that looking at maps is good for your brain, long-term. The authors of the study even claim it might save you from developing dementia one day.

Yes, but: This is a classic example of correlation vs. causation. In other words, it might be that people who become orienteering experts are naturally healthier, more spatially oriented brains, and not that orienteering itself is causing the improvements in how your brain works.

So what does this mean for you specifically? The underlying idea behind this study is, "use it or lose it." This basic advice is common-sense enough for your Youthspan Hound to endorse it without any hesitation. Specifically:

  • Turn off your GPS on occasion to force your brain to figure out where you're going on its own.

  • Take new routes to expose your brain to novelty and to create new neural pathways.

You can exercise your brain's navigation circuits whether you are going for a stroll, driving, or dog sledding with a pack of huskies. Or of course, orienteering — which sounds like a good way to spend some time in nature and and might be good for you in ways beyond just brain health.

In case you're curious about this sport, here's the Orienteering USA home page, which can help get you started.


The most worrying decline as you age — and it's not muscle mass

Muscle power training for longevity

Kids do it naturally, but adults have to be programmed to do it

What's the news: "Loss of muscle mass as you age is a half to one percent per year. Loss of muscle strength is double or triple that. Loss of muscle power is triple that.” 

In other words, if you want to train for a longevity, you'll want to focus on what's declining the most rapidly as you age — muscle power.

Why might you believe it: This comes from Andy Galpin, Ph.D, from an interview Galpin did on the Peter Attia show. Galpin is a professor of kinesiology at Cal State, Fullerton. Aside from his fancy professor work, Galvin also has a business coaching busy execs on their training, fitness, and diet.

So what's the big deal? Galpin says if you're aiming for resilience, healthy, and long youthspan, you'll have to train for it specifically. The twist is that won't happen with many of the most popular ways to train, including Zone 2, strength training, or random weight lifting.

Most of the exercises Galpin talks about to increase muscle power, such as box jumps and medicine ball tosses and rope skipping, will be familiar to you. That doesn't change the fact that even a bit of these kinds of exercises can save you from getting slower, weaker, and more prone to injury, disease, and death with each passing year.

So what specifically can you do: It's worth 10 mins of your life to watch this segment of Peter Attia's interview with Galpin and decide if you are convinced by Galpin to investigate his muscle-power-building, youthspan-promoting training approach further.


Monty Python-inspired longevity workout

Silly walks for health and longevity

Just a few minutes a day of this kind of silliness can chase away death and disease

What's the news: Silly walks, inspired by a Monty Python sketch, are officially good for your long-term health. Specifically:

  1. Just 11 mins of silly walking burns an extra 100 cals over regular walking

  2. Oxygen uptake, a measure of cardio-respiratory health, was up 2.5x during silly walking bouts

Why should you believe it? This news comes from a study published in December 2022, and performed by scientists at Arizona State and Kansas Kansas State Universities.

You might shake your head at this research, but: The world is becoming splintered between those who exercise obsessively, and a much larger number of those who do not exercise at all.

This new Monty Python exercise is an easy, fast, and fun (or at least very silly) way to get the basic benefits of exercise to those who don't do much otherwise. And earlier research shows even a few minutes of vigorous (or silly) exercise per day makes disease and death much less likely.

So what specifically can you do now: Not all silly walks are created equal. Specifically, the Mr. Teabag walk (seen in the three still photos above) was shown to be most effective. If you want a video demonstration of this particular silly walk, you can get it at this YouTube clip of the original Monty Python skit.


Your Youthspan Hound is now reading Clean Plates, an email newsletter of recipes and diet news. The folks behind Clean Plates take the science behind health trends, offer unbiased opinions on all the newest wellness products, and develop good-for-you and still tasty recipes.

And particularly dear to your Youthspan Hounds long and shaggy ears — the Clean Plates newsletter is not dogmatic about any particular diet or eating approach. Instead, they strike a balance based on the best available research. In case you're interested:


We had hope, then we had promise…

Immortal jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii. One of the rare known animals that can revert to its entirely youthful form, as many times as it wants. Who knows, maybe humans will soon be able to do the same.

I’ll leave you today with an inspiring quote from Dr. Nir Barzilai, Professor at Albert Einstein School of Medicine, and one of the foremost researchers in longevity science:

“We can target aging. We can delay it. And in several instances, we can stop and reverse it. At one point we had hope. Then we moved to promise. Now, we need to move to realize that promise. That’s where we are.”

Dr. Nir Barzilai, Albert Einstein School of Medicine

Maybe Barzilai is on the point of relizing the promise of reversing aging, but, but where you and I are is at the end of this issue of Long Youthspan. Thanks again for reading, and I’ll be back in your inbox next Thursday, with the latest batch of inspiring and practical longevity news.

- Your Youthspan Hound

Did somebody forward you this newsletter? Sign up here.