“When Will You Die?” Part 1: Longevity

Humbling indicators of longevity and what you can do about it NOW

I know. . . . it’s a pretty heavy subject to discuss. And, worse so during the holiday. Yet this is important enough not to punt for another year.  It is my gift to you. What I’m proposing in this series is an opportunity to reflect and make some changes.


Source: National Center for Health Statistics produced by National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

This is a three-part series on taking action steps towards understanding your longevity – defined as “a long individual life; and length or duration of life” –  and what you can do about it NOW!

The top indicators of longevity and wellness will forever be of great interest to most of us in the health and fitness industry. Thankfully, we live in a country where we value longevity and vitality. And, thankfully the medical community continues to make research on it a top priority to provide us with the best advice.

After all, don’t we all share the goal of living a life of quality-filled days then literally drop dead?

For the sake of this article, longevity infers quality, not quantity.

I attended a workshop last month, featuring one of my favorite folks in the industry – Dan John.  Dan discussed at length the rising interest in longevity from our clients. In our business, exercise is just one of those activities we know will help us live a longer life. So, it makes sense someone in the fitness business for over 30 years, with a Fulbright Scholarship and a College-level Religious Studies instructor, who travels to speak so much that he logs over 250,000 miles per year would have some knowledge on this subject.



Dan spoke at length about the definition of longevity and how we can measure it. His study of longevity is the basis for the assessment he completes on every athlete he sees and we at Fitness on the Run (FOR) are progressively including his program into ours.

So, what determines our longevity?


Let’s get to what really matters in that “Lifestyle” – or 40% (above) –  we control. Genetics is a whole other matter. Just because your grandmother, your aunt and cousin died of heart disease doesn’t mean you will. Yet, if you are aware of this, maybe there are proactive steps you can take. More on genetics in the next year.

Managing the 40%: Our LIFESTYLE

The most important factors – and lifestyle choices – influencing our longevity are:

  • 2:1 Waist circumference to Height Ratio (WtHR)
  • Grip Strength
  • Sit and Rise Test (SRT)
  • Stand on 1-leg for 10-seconds
  • Regular Exercise

I’ll explain why each is important and ways to overcome or learn how to “pass” the test.

The Waist to Height Ratio

The Why:

Most of you have probably heard of BMI, or Body Mass Index. It is an arcane measure of a patient’s obesity. Precisely, it is a ratio of a person’s weight in kilograms to the square of their height. (At FOR, we no longer conduct body composition measurements unless a client specifically measures. We did use the measurement of body fat, never the BMI for similar reasons, to assess the client’s body composition. 9 out of 10 clients know if they need to work on body composition – or fat loss. Weighing and measuring them isn’t necessary.)

Enter Dr. Margaret Ashwell, a consultant and former science director at the British Nutrition Foundation.

Ashwell studied and analyzed the health of 300,000 people and found that WHtR (Waist to Height Ratio) was a much better way to predict high blood pressure, Diabetes, heart attacks and strokes than BMI.

Abdominal fat affects organs like the heart, liver and kidneys more adversely than fat around the hips and bottom, in terms of cardiometabolic risk, according to the study. And, BMI does not account for the actual distribution of fat around the body.



Ashwell contends, “Keeping your waist circumference to less than half your height can help increase life expectancy for every person in the world.”

She reminds health professionals that the advantage of WHtR is the simplicity of the health message “keep your waist circumference to less than half your height”. This is a much easier thought to hold in mind than BMI, where not only do you have to work out the ratio of your weight in kilos to the square of your height in meters, but also remember what the healthy range is.


Ashwell advises to measure the waist circumference accurately, measure it mid-way between the lower rib and the iliac crest (the top of the pelvic bone at the hip). She confirmed this is the method recommended by the World Health Organization.

How to Fix:

If your height is more than double your waist circumference, congratulations. If it is not, you need to lose fat – specifically the excess around your waist band.

If you are reading this article, my hat goes off to you. You have taken the first step of being curious about where to start to form a quality-filled, infrequent illness, and content end of life experience. For those whose waist is over half of your body in inches, I suggest a sleep, food and exercise program that is sustainable and achievable to help you shed some of the excess weight off your waistline. Soon. Today.

Stay tuned to learn more about the other four indicators and how you can address them now.

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