Anti-aging products and services are part of a growth industry in the U.S. and around the world, with the global market valued at more than $260 billion a year. Botox treatments alone have soared by some 700 percent over the last two decades, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
What's behind the trend, of course, is a desire by many aging baby boomers to look and feel younger. And, as the statistics show, many people are willing to pay big bucks to do so. But Dr. Brett Osborn, one of the nation's leading neurosurgeons and wellness experts, has come up with a better way to turn back the clock on aging that doesn't rely on expensive pills, potions, or cosmetic procedures.
In his new book, "Get Serious, A Neurosurgeon's Guide to Optimal Health and Fitness," Dr. Osborn outlines a simple five-step fitness program that reverses aging by building muscle, which he calls the key to health and longevity.
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"Our ability to fight off disease resides in our muscles," says Dr. Osborn, a New York University-trained board-certified neurological surgeon with a secondary certification in anti-aging and regenerative medicine. "The greatest thing you can do for your body is to build muscle."
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Dr. Osborn tells Newsmax Health standard exercise recommendations place too much emphasis on cardio and aerobic fitness and not enough on building muscle strength.
"I believe whole-heartedly that strength training should be emphasized in one's training regimen, relative to cardio or endurance-type work," he says. "It's not an either-or; you should be good at both. But if I were to be good at one I would absolutely try to pack as much muscle as possible on my body."
He explains that muscle is the "fat-burning furnace" of the body. Building muscle also improves metabolism and insulin sensitivity, and reduces the risk of developing diabetes and other diseases promoted by inflammation.
"It exerts anti-inflammatory effects on the body," he adds, noting "the vast majority of … age-related diseases – cancer, diabetes cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, etc. — these are all inflammatory diseases."
Fat, on the other hand, plays a "sinister role" in the body, secreting hormones and other chemical substances known as cytokines that dramatically increase inflammation and boost the risks of developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
"All of the age-related diseases — all of them — have a very very very substantial inflammatory component or inflammatory underpinning. So if we reduce the amount of fat in our body, we reduce the potential output from the fat …So the less fat, the less bodily inflammation, the less aging."
He cites a 19-year study of nearly 9,000 men — ages 20 to 80 — published in the British Medical Journal that found those with the most muscular strength tended to live the longest.
He adds that the goal of his program is not necessarily weight loss.
"You will in all likelihood be a heavier if you start lifting heavy weights…because fat is much less dense," he notes. "But don't look at the scale, just pay attention to your waist, see how your pants are fitting."
Dr. Osborn identifies five back-to-basic exercises he describes as "the pillars of a solid training regime."
No. 1: The squat. This full-body exercise generates "a robust hormonal response as numerous muscular structures" are used during the movement, including legs, abs, and biceps. Standing erect then repeatedly squatting, with a weight on your shoulders, can lead to significant muscle growth, he says.
No. 2: The overhead press. This exercise — which involves raising a barbell over your head while standing — works the shoulders, arms, chest, lower back, as well as the lower body.
No. 3: The deadlift. Lifting a barbell from the ground — keeping the back straight and emphasizing the leg muscles as you stand from a crouched position, holding the weights in front of your body — is a powerful way to strengthen the hamstrings, buttocks, back, and quadriceps. Deadlifts are considered by some to be the most complete training exercise, Dr. Osborn notes.
No. 4: The bench press. Pressing a barbell toward the ceiling, while lying on a bench, targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, but works the entire upper body.
No. 5: The pull-up/chin-up. These two exercises build the muscles of the upper body in different ways. A pull-up is done with hands gripping over the bar; a chin-up is with hands gripping under the bar. It's also been called a "man's exercise, which is nonsense," he says, noting men and women alike can perform and benefit from these pillar exercises.
"All of those exercises work all of the muscles of your body to a great degree," he says. "Some work the upper body a little more than the lower body … but I can tell you that when you do those exercises you will feel them everywhere.
"It's a basic system, basic movements, nothing there is fancy. There are no gimmicks, there are no tricks. There are no fancy machines and it works the body comprehensively, biochemically. And that's what's really most important … If you make your biochemistry right — you optimize your biochemistry — you're going to reduce the incidence of any of these age-related disease."
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