According to Wolf, maintaining muscle mass is the No. 1 thing you can do to optimize longevity. “There’s this guarantee of losing muscle mass, losing the ability for maximum power production, as we age that begins in our thirties,” he explains. (Specifically, you lose 3 to 8% of muscle mass per decade after you turn 30, and at an even higher rate after 60.) It’s a process called sarcopenia, or age-related muscle mass loss, that happens as you age; between the ages of 20 and 80, research has found you can actually lose 40% of your muscle mass.
The key, says Wolf, is to delay sarcopenia as long as you can: “If you want to avoid a rest home, if you want to avoid neurodegenerative disease…All of that plays favorably to maintaining adequate muscle mass into aging,” he says.
In terms of how to maintain muscle mass, Wolf is quick to sing the praises of strength training. “That’s where the real return on investment lies with the longevity-healthspan story,” he explains. While any physical activity will do, says Wolf, he especially loves workouts with basic strength training mechanics (read: pressing, pulling, squatting, hinging, lunging, etc.)—just make sure you switch it up from time to time.
“Your body gets super efficient at the things that you do,” Wolf explains. “The real key in this [longevity] story is a novel load, a novel experience—something you haven’t really done before or is achieved in a different way. And a very minimal dose can go a long way.”