top of page

Mastering the Metrics of Health: How to Maximize your Health Span for a Marvelous Life!

In the quest for a longer, healthier life, understanding the vital metrics that contribute to longevity is paramount. While lifespan merely counts the years we live, health span focuses on the quality of those years, emphasizing vitality, mobility, and overall well-being. I don’t usually prognosticate on what Americans might believe about present day issues, but in this case, I’m nearly certain that if I asked one hundred Americans if they wanted to live independently, travel, golf, garden, or play with their grand kids when they were in the final ten years of their lives, all one hundred of them would answer in the affirmative.  Everyone wants to have a vibrant, healthy life right up until the final days of their lives. 

Unfortunately, most Americans will not experience this—they will experience a gradual decline in their functional abilities in the last decade or more of their lives.  Many Americans will not be living independently, much less be able to travel or golf or take care of their grand kids in the last five years, much less ten years, of their lives.  I have written before about the importance of exercise to improve health span and give you the best shot of having a great quality of life right up until your final days, but how do you know if what you’re doing is enough?  What metrics should you be following to know that the time and energy you’re expending is making the impact you need it to? I want to delve into three metrics—muscle mass, grip strength, and VO2 max—and explore their link to health span and lifespan.

Muscle mass, rightly associated with strength and physical performance, plays a crucial role in longevity. Research consistently demonstrates that individuals with higher muscle mass tend to live longer and enjoy better health outcomes. Why is this the case? First, muscle mass is a key determinant of metabolic health. Lean muscle tissue contributes to a higher metabolic rate, prevents insulin resistance and ultimately reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, maintaining muscle mass is essential for preserving mobility and independence as we age. Regular resistance training, coupled with adequate protein intake, is the cornerstone of preserving and building muscle mass throughout life.

So how do you know if you’re doing enough?  One metric that has been well studied and for which we have significant data associated with life span and health span is grip strength—a simple yet telling measure of upper body strength.  It has emerged as a robust predictor of longevity. Numerous studies have linked weak grip strength to a higher risk of mortality from all causes, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Moreover, grip strength is closely associated with functional ability and overall physical performance.  It is a proxy for being strong enough to do your activities of daily living and be able to enjoy your hobbies.  Lifting weights naturally improves grip strength.  You should shoot for being in the top 25% for your age and gender!

VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake, reflects the body's ability to transport and utilize oxygen during exercise—an essential marker of cardiovascular fitness and endurance. I’ve written about this before.  Research indicates that higher VO2 max levels are strongly correlated with a reduced risk of premature death and age-related diseases. Regular aerobic exercise, such as running, cycling, or swimming, is the most effective way to improve VO2 max and enhance cardiovascular health. Notably, even small increases in VO2 max can yield significant benefits in terms of longevity and overall well-being.  If you compare someone who has a VO2 max in the lowest quartile for their age and sex to someone in the top quartile for same age and sex, the less fit person will have a 3- or 4-fold higher risk of dying.  Quitting smoking doesn’t even give you that same benefit!

In the pursuit of a longer, healthier life, focusing on key metrics such as muscle mass, grip strength, and VO2 max can make a profound difference. By prioritizing strength training, aerobic exercise, and overall physical fitness, individuals can not only extend their lifespan but also optimize their health span—their quality of life in later years. Remember, it's never too late to start investing in your health and well-being. Embrace these metrics, and unlock the secrets to a vibrant, fulfilling life, no matter your age. Interested in learning more? Come see me for a meet ‘n greet at 

41 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page