There are two meanings I have intended for this term, ‘Longevity Athlete’ and I would like it to include more people under both of these.
First, it could be an athlete who highly values longevity – their long-term well-being – and chooses sports activities and trains in such a way to promote that outcome and avoids activities and behaviors that could threaten it.
Second, it could be a person who highly values longevity and pursues that outcome with the vision and focus that athletes demonstrate, though this person does not necessarily do sports or athletics.
Longevity is a statistical game. There are many, many factors involved in how long and how well a person lives, way too complex for our ability to calculate and predict for any individual. But each person can choose to add beneficial behaviors and remove harmful ones in order to stack the deck in favor of this outcome. Doing sports and being ‘athletic’ could be helpful to the goal of longevity, but it is not necessary. One could be sufficiently active with their body in many other ways.
Some people are athletes, or athletic, and then use that aspect of their life to give them goals, structure and habits that promote longevity.
Some people are not athletes yet they work on their health with the deliberate, focused attention of an athlete.
Both of these are the kind of people I am referring to with that title ‘Longevity Athlete’.
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I understand your interest in making distinct definitions, perhaps to appeal to the wider non-athlete audience interested in longevity, but I believe your second definition needs to specifically include ‘undertaking physical activity aka regular exercise’. The January 2019 issue of the Scientific American has an article which suggests daily exercise is not an option for longer living rather it is a must. Daily exercise ensures an active and functioning immune system an essential piece of the longer life puzzle.
I agree, though the definition of ‘exercise’ is what I am parsing here, by using the word ‘athletic’ to conjure an image of a person engages in sports specifically. If we look at the Blue Zones studies, we see that the communities with the longest living populations don’t ‘exercise’ in the way we think of exercise in our cultures. They are just moving all day long, hiking with their goats, chopping wood, gathering food, walking to the market, pulling in fishing nets, carrying stuff around, etc. So, if our definition of exercise is ‘moving much of the body, a lot, throughout the day’ then yes, that kind of exercise is necessarily a part of the second kind of longevity athlete. But if it means the western form of ‘sit on your butt all day and then go run for 1 hour to make up for it’, then no, it does not necessarily need that kind of exercise. But I think you and I are on the same page.
Thanks for this new initiative. I love reading all of your ideas and insights and always find it valuable. At 61 and an eager longer distance swimmer I know I can only benefit listening to you.