My Inspiration: Frank Booth

booth
Dr. Frank Booth

First to give credit where credit is due. I became aware of Frank Booth and his vision for a longer lived and healthier America from a “reblog” on the Simple Living Over 50 blogspot. Thanks for letting me “steal” this.

Now to the point. Here’s what Booth proposes in a nutshell:

Frank Booth wants people to live to be 100. And then be told they have 48 hours to live. Only at the very end of life should people succumb to conditions such as cancer or heart disease, he says. Then, a serious illness wouldn’t be a tragedy; it’d be cause for throwing one last giant party.

So, how would you like to live to be 100 and live all but the last few days of your life in a completely healthy state? Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? It sounds like science fiction.

Except Dr. Booth thinks it is or could very well be science fact.

I decided to find out more about Booth than the short article at Unearthed revealed.

First, I had to get past the fact that the most famous “Frank Booth” is a fictional character in the 1986 thriller Blue Velvet played by actor Dennis Hopper.

I little extra “Googling” pointed me to Dr. Booth’s biography at the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine.

There were any number of Google search results regarding Dr. Booth and his work. I chose two of them. The first is this:

Frank Booth, a resident of Columbia and a professor in the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Medicine and MU Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center, has given a $1 million gift to MU to fund his research into physical activity and health and to endow the Frank Booth Fellowship in Physical Activity and Health in the MU School of Medicine in perpetuity. Booth, an expert on genetic motivations for exercise and activity, has made research into unhealthy effects of physical inactivity on the brain and aerobic capacity his life’s work. He says his gift is motivated by a passion to help humans and animals live longer lives free from chronic diseases.

“$1 Million Gift to Fund Exercise Physiology Research at MU,” Nov 20, 2014
University of Missouri News Bureau

A million dollars may not be the biggest research grant ever issued, but it does show that someone is taking Booth’s work seriously.

Here’s the other article:

MU Exercise Physiology Professor Frank Booth doesn’t just talk the talk on exercise. He runs the run. His regiment, when it allows, is to jump on treadmill in his office — yes, in his office — twice a day for high-intensity interval training.

Booth also regularly runs the 1.3-mile route from his home to his office, using his car only for big errands like trips to the grocery store.

“Under The Microscope: Frank Booth and the ‘Exercise Apex,'” Mar. 30, 2015
KBIA Mid-Missouri Public Radio

Here’s something from the same story that should get your attention:

Booth argues that 35 chronic conditions – including many types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease – may be caused or amplified by physical inactivity.

old man's workout
Photo credit: earlytorise.com

This guy’s making me glad that I spend about an hour a day at the gym, six days a week. He’s also (sort of) flying in the face of what I know about cardio workouts by engaging in high intensity interval training or HIIT. I gave up HIIT personally because of what I learned about its impact on people, particularly older people. On the other hand, it seems to work for 71-year-old Booth, at least for now. He’s only got 29 more years until he hits (no pun intended) the century mark, so assuming I live that long, I’ll see how he’s doing by then.

I got a chance to “hear his voice,” so to speak, when I discovered he was interviewed in a book published in 2012 called Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance and authored by William D. McArdle. You can read the full interview at books.google.com but here’s a brief quote of his answer to the question, “You have the opportunity to give a ‘last lecture.’ Describe its primary focus.”

The basis of my talk would involve how regular exercise affects daily living. I would focus not just on the physiologic function and performance aspects, but on exercise’s effects on chronic ills like diabetes, pulmonary and kidney diseases, heart disease, and cancer. For the ever-increasing number of American citizens living in nursing homes, I would discuss the profound effect of sedentary living on muscular atrophy and reduced strength, two factors that limit these individuals’ ability to carry out even the simplest tasks of daily living. I would emphasize that relying on pills to tackle disease contributes relatively little to a happy and healthy life. I would also hope to convince the audience that the exercise biologist’s role is not simply to study the effects of physical activity or enhance sport performance. The “new” exercise physiologist must reintroduce regular physical activity into an unhealthy, overweight, and sedentary population that is genetically programmed to expect physical activity. I refer to this unhealthy state as SeDS, an abbreviation for sedentary death syndrome.

Okay, so that wasn’t exactly a “brief” quote, but you get the point. “Sedentary Death Syndrome.” I’d call it, “move or die”.

I believe that participating in regular exercise can, in general, extend our life spans. I also believe that such exercise contributes to not only longer life, but longer quality of life. I don’t know if that will ever extend to living a completely healthy life for 99.99% of our life span only to be diagnosed with a terminal illness in the last few days before we pass on, but it’s encouraging to hear that someone out there believes it’s a possibility.

The only step I think Dr. Booth missed was resistance training. He seems to be focused on regular cardio exercise, which isn’t a bad thing certainly, but in the quote just above, he spoke of older people and “muscular atrophy”. You can’t address wasting muscle mass with running alone. You need to perform some sort of resistance training for the whole body, whether that’s with weights, elastic bands, body weight, or some other, similar work.

gymI started this blog both to educate myself as an older weight trainer and to be an encouragement for others my age and older (or younger for that matter) who have come to realize that we don’t have to surrender our health and our lives to old age, at least not without a damn hard fight.

One of the taglines from the 1999 film Galaxy Quest is “Never give up, never surrender.” Every one of us living out our version of this “Old Man’s Gym” should embrace that as our mantra. I appreciate people like Dr. Frank Booth for his research, his vision, and his lifestyle. He’s another pioneer into the undiscovered country of longer, healthier living.

Where he leads, we can follow.

Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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