AstroFit: The Astronaut Program for Anti-Aging

AstroFit: The Astronaut Program for Anti-Aging

by William Evans, Gerald Secor Couzens

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Turn your body's clock back by up to thirty years with a revolutionary anti-aging, slow-motion muscle-building fitness regimen developed for astronauts!
At the heart of AstroFit is a new, slow-motion E-Centric resistance-training regimen based on Dr. William J. Evans' breakthrough muscle-building research for NASA. Evans, one of the country's foremost


Turn your body's clock back by up to thirty years with a revolutionary anti-aging, slow-motion muscle-building fitness regimen developed for astronauts!
At the heart of AstroFit is a new, slow-motion E-Centric resistance-training regimen based on Dr. William J. Evans' breakthrough muscle-building research for NASA. Evans, one of the country's foremost advocates of slow resistance training, details his innovative strength-training regime centered on raising and lowering weights slowly to build more muscle. In just 30 minutes per workout — and without any special equipment — AstroFit helps you to shed extra pounds and retain a powerful, youthful body for the rest of your life. Dr. Evans also provides menus for two weeks of protein-rich meals that fuel your muscles, leave you energized, and allow you to eat for optimum health without hunger. And because it may sound too good to be true, first-person before and after accounts from his test subjects attest to incredible successes achieved in just ninety days!
The AstroFit program grew out of extensive scientific research. On long space journeys, accelerated "aging" occurs as a result of prolonged weightlessness, causing crippling muscle and bone loss, as well as balance problems. The dramatic need for a program of age reversal for astronauts became a call to action for Dr. Evans, an expert adviser to NASA. As a result of his remarkable initiatives, astronauts now in training for an eventual mission to Mars will return in good health. Better still, readers of AstroFit can achieve the same age-reversal benefits right here on earth.
With AstroFit you will: Prevent muscle loss and increase muscle growth, while trimming and sculpting your body • Stop bone loss and osteoporosis • Improve balance while enhancing muscle "memory" • Ensure permanent loss of body fat • Reset your metabolism level • Boost your immune system to maximum levels!

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Chapter 1: Reversing the Body's Aging, for Astronauts and for You

We ever long for visions of beauty,

We ever dream of unknown worlds.


Astronauts will soon travel to Mars, a cold planet half the size of Earth, located more than 250 million miles away. No trip into space will have taken so long. No expedition will have involved such exhaustive, integrated preparation. As a society, we might react to the news of this incredible journey with awe and pride. Correctly, we would think of this adventure as the achievement of one of our greatest goals.

For me, however, there will be something more. For me, there will be a different kind of exhilaration, one that comes from the fulfillment of one's own goals. You see, the secondary benefit of the successful journey to Mars is the impact it will have on the struggle to reverse the aging process here on Earth.

The extensive plans for this three-year round-trip Martian voyage are well under way, and they entail the most comprehensive scientific preparation for any journey ever attempted. That is because prolonged space flight in microgravity — that's the word for almost zero gravity — results in remarkable physical changes within the body which are astonishingly similar to our journey into old age. Traveling into old age is a damaging process we want to stop and reverse, especially as it concerns our muscles and bone.

Weeks into their Martian adventure, the astronauts' muscle cells will atrophy. Some will be lost forever as these space travelers become as weak as most eighty-year-olds. Calcium will be leached from their bones at a greatly accelerated rate. Normal bone growth will be upset, leaving their bones pitted with craters and liable to fracture. Imagine the bones as being like a wool sweater that has been eaten by moths. The astronauts' balance will be extremely compromised. Their blood volume will be reduced, and their heart muscle will shrink. Their immune systems will be upset, and minor infections may pose major threats. Their bodies will be bombarded by radiation, greatly increasing the risk of cancer.

Turning Back the Clock

My job over the past few years has been to find effective ways to prevent the premature aging of the Mars-bound astronauts. As head of the Nutrition, Physical Fitness, and Rapid Rehabilitation Team of the National Space Biomedical Research Institution (NSBRI), I have been working on a program to prevent the astronauts from experiencing a physical deterioration equivalent to more than thirty years of aging on their journey to and from the Red Planet. The ultimate goal is to have a crew of astronauts land on Mars in great physical shape, with muscles and bones as strong and powerful as they were at liftoff nine months earlier — and to have them return to Earth in the same physical condition.

The good news is that a way to do this has been found. I can now share with you an age-reversal program that works for astronauts and will work for you. What I am proposing is revolutionary: a program that will allow all of us on Earth to take control of how quickly or slowly we age. The program is called AstroFit.

In my "Mars" laboratory at the Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, I have been able to simulate a speeded-up aging process in order to see exactly what happens to muscle, bone, balance, and overall fitness. What normally takes place over the span of a lifetime, I can now observe happening in weeks, using as my test subjects healthy, active people in their twenties, thirties, and forties. My research has documented the advancement of aging, characterized by specific breakdowns and changes that occur in the human body in weightless conditions. In my lab, I am seeing what will happen to the astronauts on their journey to and from Mars.

As I became more involved in my NASA project, and the relationship between space aging and Earth aging became more apparent to me, I knew I needed to write this book. I wanted to share the AstroFit program with a wide audience so that it could have a significant and important impact on aging for all of us. Using special muscle- and bone-building exercises I call E-Centrics, I can ensure that the Mars-bound astronauts will successfully withstand the serious health risks that will face them. With special weight resistance training, they will learn how to protect their bodies from rapid aging.

By using a slightly modified version of the same program, you too can achieve age reversal, no matter what your age, no matter what your current physical condition. In this book you have the latest scientifically based information needed to forestall aging. Using the same research-based AstroFit program I have designed for the astronauts on the way to Mars, you, too, can achieve comparable protection and age reversal — no matter what your age. I've seen this happen firsthand so many times already, not only in my test subjects, but also in friends and family members who have followed the AstroFit plan for ninety days. Thanks to the innumerable breakthroughs that have come out of the NASA-sponsored research in my laboratory, and from other NASA labs around the country, we now have the means to stay younger and more vital for longer than at any other period in human existence.

Unhealthy Adaptations in Space

The Mars mission is now among NASA's top priorities, and a large contingent of dedicated NASA administrators and scientists around the globe is working to make this dream a reality within the decade. I've had the privilege of working with many of them over the years while conducting my studies in human physiology. The ultimate goal of our collective research is to allow the crew of highly trained astronauts to switch on the afterburners of their spacecraft and gently ease it onto the dusty red surface of Mars. But how will a journey that will take three years — nine months going, eighteen months exploring the planet, and nine months returning home — and involve such exhaustive and integrated physical preparation of the astronauts be possible? More important, how will the astronauts, albeit highly trained and superbly conditioned, be able to survive the incredible physical rigors of this 500-million-mile roundtrip voyage?

I'm sure you've seen television clips of astronauts just back from outer space, unable to walk on their own after only a ten-day mission. For Mars-bound astronauts, the debilitation could be far worse. In traveling to Mars, these once healthy men and women could become old in every sense of the word — and at high risk of dying, either on Mars or later, after they arrive back home.

Muscle atrophy is a serious problem for astronauts in space and it progresses rapidly the longer they're aloft. On Earth, our muscles maintain some of their size and strength when we go about our daily chores, but they really begin to grow when we exercise them with weights. In the microgravity of space — which spacelings encounter within nine minutes of liftoff from Earth — the leg muscles soon become weakened from lack of use because astronauts "float" instead of walk and the leg muscles are no longer needed. The body senses that immediately and begins to rid itself of the muscle. To move in any direction, all the astronauts have to do is push with their arms against a fixed object, such as the wall of the spacecraft.

In this new environment, the large, powerful back muscles, which make up the most muscle tissue in the body, are suddenly free of all the load-bearing stresses experienced on Earth, and they, too, immediately begin to weaken. Although the skeletal muscles continue to control and move the body in space, the muscle fibers become significantly smaller in the absence of gravity. They also begin to alter, changing from slow-twitch fibers, which were once useful for support against gravity, to fast-twitch fibers, which are more useful for pushing. For every week an astronaut remains in space, his muscles typically shrink by 2 to 3 percent.

While weightlessness seems like everyone's dream of how to maneuver through life without much physical expenditure, it's actually a medical nightmare of gigantic proportions. Due to the extensive loss of muscle and bone that occurs, living in microgravity could turn the astronauts into old men and women decades before their time. Without taking proper countermeasures during the flight to Mars, they would arrive in an extremely weakened state. Stepping onto the Martian soil outfitted in their bulky space suits, they'd be so weak that even the most minor physical activity would seem difficult. They'd be too fatigued to turn the screwdriver needed to construct their prefabricated modular Martian dwelling. And with virtually no muscle power left, venturing out to explore and gather rock and mineral samples would be impossible.

Returning once again to the gravitational pull of Earth, the astronauts — once supremely conditioned forty- and fifty-year olds — would be transformed into the equivalent of slow-moving, infirm seventy- and eighty-year olds. Weak, dizzy, nauseated, and incapable of walking a straight line, their very survival would be jeopardized.

As an exercise scientist, I closely study people as they walk, run, swim, and lift heavy objects. I also examine them when they're sedentary and doing nothing more than clicking the TV remote control. Through my work on the Mars project, I've found that after an extended orbit of several weeks, astronauts suffer many of the same health problems that I see in our sedentary, aging population. They become weak, unstable on their feet, and extremely limited in what they can do. Ironically, what's happened to them is that their bodies have successfully adapted to life without gravity, only to find that these adaptations are quite harmful once back on Earth.

The human body is masterfully resilient. For thousands of years, it has withstood the rigors of famine, war, and natural disasters by adapting to its surroundings. When humans travel into space, their bodies similarly adapt to their new environment. But this elegant survival mechanism extracts a stiff penalty.

There is considerable evidence that most, if not all, of the "undesirable" changes in the body that occur in microgravity are necessary responses for the maintenance of body equilibrium. For example, the bodily fluids begin to redistribute almost immediately, causing blood pressure to dip to a level appropriate for the new environment but precariously low for life on Earth. While astronauts float through the cabin and perform breathtaking gymnastic feats, they aren't using their muscles and there is no impact whatsoever on their bones. In an environment where movement is effortless, bones begin to lose calcium and muscles shed unneeded mass. Space flight leaves astronauts too weakened to adapt to life on Mars or to function in Earth's 1-G force field.

The Mars Solution Becomes AstroFit

Protecting the astronauts as they change from earthlings into spacelings has been a formidable challenge, both for me and for other research scientists around the world. The mandate to return healthy astronauts to Earth from an extended Martian mission has forced us to try to fully understand how and why the body reacts to physical activity and just what happens when all physical force is removed from every aspect of daily living. Fortunately, our research has been yielding answers. From our body of work, I have derived a special program I call AstroFit that combines strength-training exercises with optimal nutrition. The AstroFit program will benefit astronauts in four vital ways:

Benefit 1. Their muscles will not shrivel. They will be able to maintain their overall strength and muscle endurance.

Benefit 2. Their aerobic performance will not decline. Their hearts will be able to sustain adequate blood pressure, and their aerobic capacity will be undiminished.

Benefit 3. Their bones will not become porous. Their skeletal systems will remain strong and intact.

Benefit 4. They will not age.

What's even more exciting to me is that you do not have to be an astronaut aboard a spaceship bound for Mars to experience these incredible benefits. In as little as ninety days, the AstroFit program will allow you to achieve the same age reversal as the astronauts.

Ninety Days to a New You

Performing the AstroFit program regularly comes closer to being a fountain of youth than anything modern medicine can offer. Although many people blame "getting old" on bad luck, fate, or poor genes, staying young is mainly a lifestyle decision that you make. In addition to making you feel thirty years younger, the AstroFit program will help you develop more strength than ever before. Your bones will become stronger, and you'll become steadier on your feet. In just ninety days, you will enhance your ability to compete in the workplace and on the sports field. Fatigue will be banished and your stamina will quadruple, giving you the energy to do the things you yearn to accomplish. You'll be able to live your life to the fullest. Live longer? Most likely. Live a fuller, more vital life? Most definitely.

There will be powerful psychological changes as well, starting with a huge boost in self-confidence. This belief in your skills and capabilities will be bolstered as you see yourself achieving your potential, getting stronger, and feeling more energetic.

You don't need a lot of equipment. You don't have to go on a wacky diet. There are no special pills or herbal concoctions. AstroFit is specifically designed to build lean body tissue — that's muscle — and to dramatically turn up your metabolism. When you speed up the process by which your body converts the calories in food to energy, you'll make steady and significant gains in how you look and feel, beginning with your first workout. In just ninety days, you will:

  • Go from fat to firm, paring off pounds of excess body fat while still eating as much as you want of a fat-burning, muscle-nourishing diet. After just twelve weeks of dedicated exercise and proper nutrition, you will see a dramatic drop in your body fat composition and improvements in your muscle strength and firmness.

  • Put on pounds of fat-burning muscle. Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue of the body. Think of muscle as an engine that is always turned on. Strengthening your muscles can help rev up your internal engine. After twelve weeks of E-Centrics, it will be like replacing your small four-cylinder engine with a turbocharged V-8. Even when your muscles are at rest — for example, when you are sleeping — they keep burning calories. For every pound of muscle you put on with AstroFit, expect to burn an additional 100 calories per day. This will help reverse the slow but steady weight gain that is an all-too-common pattern among Americans.

  • Improve the functioning of your heart. Like your other muscles, the heart becomes stronger and larger as a result of E-Centrics so it can pump more blood through the body with every beat. A fit heart will pump more blood at this maximum level and sustain the pumping longer with less strain.

  • Prevent or combat obesity and its cascade of dangerous health problems. Most Americans eat not only too much but too much of the wrong foods — fast food, fried food, sweets, and "empty calories" with no nutritional value. To top it off, we're not physically active enough during the day. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we've become a nation of fat people. Almost 35 percent of Americans are now considered obese. Obesity is a primary risk factor for heart disease and is linked to many other ailments as well, including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, certain cancers, gallstones, and degenerative arthritis. Regular E-Centric workouts, coupled with the sensible AstroFit eating plan, are the key to effective, permanent weight loss. Even small weight losses — 10 to 15 percent of body fat — are associated with decreased cardiovascular risk, improved glucose tolerance, lower blood pressure, better cholesterol profile, and reduced symptoms of degenerative joint disease.

  • Bolster the production of insulinlike growth factor 1, which directly stimulates muscle growth.

  • Build stronger, denser bones. Strong muscles and strong bones go hand in hand. By targeting all the major muscle groups, the E-Centric program helps strengthen bones all over your body. The more weight you can lift, the more stress you can put on your bones — stress that stimulates more bone growth. More than 25 million Americans, many of them menopausal women, are thought to have osteoporosis, a disease of severe bone loss that causes 1.5 million fractures a year, mostly of the back, hip, and wrist. About half of those who break their hips never regain full walking ability, and many of these fractures lead to fatal complications. By strengthening your muscles and bones and improving your balance, you reduce your risk of dangerous falls.

  • Prevent and reduce physical frailty. It's now thought that by the time most Americans reach their seventies, more than one-fourth of the men and two-thirds of the women are unable to lift an object heavier than ten pounds, such as a bag of groceries, a laundry basket, or a small dog. Performing E-Centrics over the initial ninety-day training period will give you a guaranteed 5 percent boost in strength at every workout! No longer will you be daunted by any physical task, whether it be carrying luggage, opening jars, shoveling snow, or lifting your dog into the tub for a bath.

  • Improve your posture. The E-Centric program works on building strong core muscles, particularly those of the abdomen (the rectus abdominis, the external obliques, the internal obliques, and the transversus abdominis). Posture is improved because strong abdominal muscles help support the spine and hold up your body throughout the day.

  • Improve your diet. Part of the AstroFit program is nourishing your muscles with a protein-rich diet. Your muscles are fueled by calories from high-quality protein. If you don't consume a steady supply throughout the day, your body will "steal" protein from your muscles. The end result is that you will lose muscle. Also, without adequate protein, your body becomes less efficient at burning fat. My protein recommendation is double that of the current RDA. In order to ensure the steady utilization and release of energy, the protein-rich AstroFit food plan stresses the consumption of foods in the following percentages of total daily calories: carbohydrate, 60 percent; protein, 20 percent; and fat, 20 percent.

  • Combat excess blood sugar. E-Centric exercises build muscle fast, increasing the sensitivity of cells to insulin, which, in turn, lowers blood sugar and the need for insulin. This helps prevent adult-onset diabetes. Lean muscle is the biggest "sponge" for soaking up glucose, the simple sugar that is the body's source of all energy. The less lean muscle you have, the greater your likelihood of developing excess blood sugar and diabetes. By adhering to the AstroFit program, you'll build lean muscle and help keep your blood sugar levels in the healthy range.

  • Improve your sense of balance. Starting in their thirties, people begin to lose their balancing ability imperceptibly. This affects their daily living as well as exercise and sports routines. The AstroFit program will give you enhanced proprioception — a heightened sense of where your body is in space. Plus, when your muscles are strengthened, your balance improves and you become less injury-prone and less likely to fall. And when you do stumble, you will be able to right yourself more readily.

  • Reduce elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Stress is hard on the body; lowering stress levels can improve neural function and help prevent overall debilitation. When I work in my laboratory with the men and women in my studies, they are generally less tired, less angry, less tense, calmer, more focused, and happier. Your half hour of AstroFit training is "your" time, and the E-Centrics will help calm you, even if you are highly anxious. Exercise is great for your mental well-being because it gives you a beneficial "time out" from your worries.

  • Sleep like a baby. You're guaranteed more restful, deeper sleep. E-Centrics help raise the core temperature of your central nervous system, lulling the body into a somnolence similar to that experienced after a warm bath.

  • Reduce depression. The more you exercise, the more your body's cells increase their ability to use oxygen. Strong, muscular people are less likely to tire during the day, allowing them to work and play harder without missing a beat. Within two weeks of beginning AstroFit, you will feel an increase in energy and an enhanced mood. Even if you're not in good shape when you start, you can still achieve these wonderful benefits.

  • Boost your self-esteem. You'll be surprised, but the psychological catharsis you undergo may match or surpass your physical changes. Performing E-Centrics regularly can improve your general feeling of well-being. Feeling healthier can raise your self-esteem, making you feel more confident, assertive, and attractive.

  • Enhance your sexual pleasure. You couldn't ask for a better aphrodisiac. Not only does AstroFit improve your overall health, which then promotes better functioning of all of the body's systems, it also improves your body image. Because sex is a whole-body experience, it makes sense that you'll enjoy it more when your muscles, blood vessels, and nerves are performing at peak levels.

  • Reduce or eliminate joint aches and pains. In a normal joint, each end of a bone is coated with cartilage, a tough, smooth, slippery cushion that protects the bones and reduces friction during movement. Osteoarthritis develops when cartilage breaks down or wears away, sometimes disappearing entirely, creating a painful bone-on-bone joint. Any joint may be affected, but the feet, knees, hips, and fingers are the most common. People with arthritis and osteoarthritis will greatly improve their condition and stay mobile and active by building muscle around the joints the AstroFit way. And remember, you can do this at any age.

  • Enhance your immune function. Performing E-Centrics regularly will boost several key aspects of immune function. There's also evidence that people who exercise regularly have higher levels of InterLeukin 1 (IL-1), a natural substance that temporarily raises body temperature — producing fever — and helps kill invading organisms.

  • Improve your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol, a waxy substance found in the bloodstream, helps form cell membranes, some hormones, and a variety of tissues. E-Centric training has the ability to boost protective HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels, while lowering LDL ("bad" cholesterol) blood levels. A high HDL level, defined as 60 mg/dl or more, is considered to be extremely protective against coronary artery disease.

AstroFit is revolutionary. Yet it's also basic, and, best of all, it works. Within these pages you will find everything you need to revitalize and enhance your appearance, your health, and your life. This isn't a quick fix, but rather a rejuvenating lifestyle change involving special weight-training and balance exercises along with optimal nutrition for a high-energy, healthful way of life. The goal of AstroFit is to make you stronger, more active, slimmer, more mobile, more energetic, more vigorous, and more self-confident. In a word: youthful.

Why E-Centrics?

One important aspect of my scientific investigation has been distinguishing what is true biological aging from what is a consequence of personal lifestyle choices. I'm convinced that much of the physical deterioration associated with the passage of time is far from inevitable, and that E-Centric strength training to maintain and build muscle throughout life can reverse this decline.

From the studies of aging I have carried out with men and women as old as 100 years of age, what has become increasingly clear is that a sedentary lifestyle is a major aging accelerant. Lack of physical activity leads to a weakening of the body due to the loss of muscle, and also to an increase in the percentage of body fat. This is a slow, insidious process that can begin in our twenties and ultimately manifests itself in lower back pain, osteoarthritis, or a heart attack.

I've spent the better part of two decades uncovering the secrets of muscles, investigating how muscle fibers perform on a biochemical level and what type of weight training best stresses them and makes them get stronger. In the course of my research, I have developed the weight training program that is the foundation of my AstroFit program.

E-Centrics are very different from any type of weight training you may have done in the past. Even for an experienced weight lifter, the change in the raising and lowering cadence will take some getting used to.

Let me explain. Any weight-lifting maneuver, whether it's a biceps curl or a lunge, entails both a lifting phase and a lowering phase. The lifting phase is called the concentric phase. What is so novel — and extremely effective — about E-Centrics is that the focus is on the lowering phase of every weight-training exercise. This is the all-important eccentric phase of each exercise, the part that most people ignore when they lift weights.

Typically, what happens in weight lifting here on Earth is a struggle to bring up the weights and then — bam! — down go the weights, back to the starting position. The exerciser ends up missing out on what happens to be the most important part of the exercise. By lowering the weight very slowly and smoothly, you send the message to your brain that you need more muscle cells to help in the effort.

Muscles are made to contract. This is what happens in, for example, a biceps curl when you raise a dumbbell from your thigh, curling it up to your shoulder. However, when you perform an E-Centric biceps curl, you raise the weight in two seconds and then lower it slowly back down from your shoulder to your thigh in six seconds. First the biceps muscle contracts, and then it is powerfully stretched as you slowly lower the weight.

AstroFit is a safe, progressive strength-building program. The idea is to stress your body without straining it. At first, you perform exercises based on body-weight resistance, rather than dumbbells or gym weights. As you gain strength, you begin to add weights to your workouts. Each weight resistance E-Centric exercise is performed with a weight that can be lifted no more than ten consecutive times in perfect form. This means:

  • Raising the weight in two seconds.

  • Lowering the weight slowly in six seconds.

As you reach each strength plateau — where this type of lifting finally seems easy — you add 5 percent more weight at your next workout and introduce the muscles to the new resistance.

The body's response to this dual action is interesting: within forty-eight hours it builds significantly more muscle fiber than it would have with a concentric-only maneuver.

Ultimately, E-Centric exercises allow you to achieve the best results in the shortest time. In the process of exercising this way, the muscle becomes stronger — with 5 percent gains in strength achieved at every training session for the first three months!

It's Never Too Late

From the time that people first began studying humans in motion, the prevailing belief was that as we aged we automatically became enfeebled. The prevailing opinion was that those who remained strong simply had better genes. "Survival of the fittest" determined who would be self-sufficient and who would eventually need a cane, a walker, a wheelchair, or a hospital bed. My groundbreaking research, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1990, debunked that myth and just about every other previously held idea regarding strength training and aging.

In a series of weight-training studies I conducted with sixty-, seventy-, eighty-, and ninety-year-old men and women, strength gains of up to 175 percent were observed in a matter of weeks, many participants increasing the size of their muscles by 15 percent with just a few basic strength exercises. With those bigger, stronger muscles, some of them were able to get out of their wheelchairs or put down their crutches and canes, performing ordinary tasks that once had been daunting and moving around unassisted as they had years before. Many of these people were surprised to find that the simple act of building muscle with light — ten- and fifteen-pound — weights was enough to transform their overall quality of life.

The only way to head off physical decline is with E-Centric resistance training, which gives us the power to continue to perform our daily activities right into our seventies, eighties, and beyond. Building new muscle keeps us active and vital. It's muscle that keeps us from becoming "old."

Jodie Gets Her Strength Back

Building upon my study findings, I've spent the past decade delving even further into the most efficient methods of maintaining and increasing muscle at any age. I've been able to take men and women and make their bodies, for all intents and purposes, years younger.

To determine how strong people are, I time them as they walk up a flight of stairs. Jodie, who was seventy-eight years old and had diabetes and hypertension, was out of breath almost immediately and didn't have the strength to go up the full flight of stairs. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "See. I told you: I'm old. Now you know what I mean."

I told Jodie not to give up. I had a surprise in store for her if only she would come back to my lab every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next three months and perform seven simple E-Centric strength-training exercises. She agreed, and she never missed a training session in the next twelve weeks. After getting used to the special E-Centric movement on the weight machines, she dutifully raised and lowered the weights as I had instructed her.

On the ninetieth day, I took Jodie over to the stairs once again. She had completed thirty-six training sessions, and I wanted to show her how far she had progressed since her first workout. Taking out my stopwatch, I told her to go to the top of the stairs as fast as she could. Not only did she go up the full flight of stairs, but she went up as rapidly as someone thirty years younger.

Jodie had never thought it would be possible to regain the strength and vitality she had lost over the past decades. Happily, hers is not an isolated story. I see it all of the time with my test subjects of all ages who begin to lift weights. Think what Jodie's life would have been like if she had started this program in her twenties, thirties, forties, or even fifties!

Aerobic Exercise or Weight Training?

Although walking, biking, and swimming are all healthful aerobic activities that enhance the function of your heart and lungs, by far the best way to prevent or reverse muscle loss is through regular E-Centric strength-training sessions. Both types of exercise are good for you, but in different ways.

In a recent study, Danish investigators examined three groups of competitive athletes, all in their sixties and seventies. These test subjects trained and competed regularly as runners, swimmers, and weight lifters. As a control group, the investigators age-matched a group of sedentary older men and another group of active men who were twenty-four years of age, on average.

The remarkable finding of this study was that the men who had been swimming or running for most of their lives were no stronger than older men in the control group who were completely sedentary. These older endurance athletes certainly had much less body fat than their sedentary counterparts, but their muscle mass was just as minuscule as that of the sedentary seventy-year-olds. The older weight lifters, however, were much stronger than the older endurance athletes, and their muscle mass and strength were similar to that of the twenty-four-year-old men. Muscle biopsies revealed that the molecular structure of the muscles of the older weight lifters was similar to that of the young men. By contrast, the muscle composition of the swimmers and runners was similar to that of the inactive control group.

Aerobic exercise is definitely part of the AstroFit program. It's important to incorporate aerobic activity into your exercise week in order to maximize your cardiovascular fitness. However, the focus of this book is rebuilding muscle so you can maintain your strength and health for as long as possible. As you follow my AstroFit program over the next three months, you're guaranteed to add muscle no matter how old you are — effectively reversing the aging process.

If you already perform some type of aerobic exercise, you will be surprised to find that the strong muscles you get from AstroFit will enhance your ability to run, dance, cycle, and swim. In addition, your body's metabolic furnaces start to roar after each good weight-training workout. No aerobic exercise, no matter how great you feel afterward, will continue to burn calories once you're done.

The bottom line: You can run, bike, swim, or walk all that you want, which is great for cardiovascular fitness. But when it comes to building powerful, fat-burning, age-extending muscle, you have to lift weights E-Centrically to achieve the most benefit. Even regular weight training doesn't give the same results as AstroFit.

Women and E-Centric Training

E-Centric training is as important for women as it is for men. Unfortunately, the fear of developing oversized muscles like a male bodybuilder has kept many women away from weight training.

The development of muscle mass is a function of a woman's genetic inheritance as well as her training program. The circulating levels of testosterone — one of the primary hormones responsible for large gains in muscle tissue, as well as the development of the male secondary sex characteristics — are ten to thirty times greater in men than women. Therefore, it's extremely difficult for a woman to develop the size of muscles typically seen in men at comparable training levels.

My advice for women is to get rid of the notion that you will look like a bodybuilder once you start lifting weights. Women naturally have less bone and muscle than men, putting them at higher risk of osteoporosis and greater risk of disability as they age.

So what are you waiting for? If you want control over your body and spirit, a stronger, more powerful, self-confident woman is just a few E-Centric sessions away!

Suzanne Takes Her Fitness to the Next Level

A perfect example of a true believer is Suzanne, a test subject in one of my Mars studies. Suzanne ran three miles regularly and considered herself to be in excellent physical shape. At five feet, eight inches and 125 pounds she was thin, but the biggest muscles she had on her body were her hamstrings (located on the backs of the thighs). These helped power her along on her runs around Little Rock. Other than that, Suzanne had no significant musculature and barely any strength. When I tested her body fat percentage, it was 24 percent, which was too high for someone who put so much time into running.

A few weeks into the study, Suzanne realized she was nowhere near her true physical potential. Excited by the many positive changes she saw in herself — such as more energy, increased metabolism, and greater muscle definition — that came from her E-Centric workouts, she was not prepared to lose ground by going back to her aerobic-based workouts once the study ended.

In my laboratory, we have a special piece of equipment called the Space Yo Yo. It's a machine designed for E-Centric strength training in Earth's gravity or in microgravity. Suzanne had been training with the Yo Yo, but now needed a home workout using dumbbells that would provide the same muscle-building effectiveness.

I put together a program, and Suzanne bought a set of dumbbells. Over the next three months she trained E-Centrically three times a week. She started out with five-pound dumbbells, but she gradually moved up in poundage to keep pace with her tremendous strength gains. By the twelfth week, Suzanne was hoisting twenty-pound weights for some exercises and said that she'd never been so strong in her life. Her appetite had increased significantly, and she began consuming more low-fat, protein-based foods. Since she was developing metabolically active lean tissue, her body fat percentage started dropping to a more healthful level. As Suzanne's case illustrates so well, my AstroFit program enhances the whole person, producing a leaner, stronger, and more metabolically efficient body in the process. Most of Suzanne's clothing had to be taken in by a tailor, but this was a price she was happy to pay.

Fast, Tangible Results

With any type of aerobic exercise, you eventually make changes in how you look and feel, but you won't have much more muscular strength — plus it takes a while to realize any significant transformation. One of the interesting aspects of E-Centric training is that half of all the strength gains you make will come in the first three months, which means that you will be making significant increases in strength very quickly. This, of course, leads to immediate gratification and the motivation to continue the AstroFit program.

I've based the AstroFit program on three E-Centric workouts per week. Each one takes half an hour. This structure allows you to hit new benchmarks for strength, fat loss, and increases in muscle mass every four weeks. The program takes only three months or less to yield significant results. As an added bonus, it's extremely inexpensive.

In this book I provide you with my laboratory-based exercise and nutrition plan that's guaranteed to give you the means to slow or even reverse many of the most prominent aspects of aging. AstroFit works for the elite astronaut corps, and it will work even for sedentary people who have not seen the inside of a gym since their high school phys ed classes. Put in the time, and you'll reap the rewards quickly. At your very first workout, you will feel the changes in your muscles, and you'll see visible results six to nine workouts later.

Copyright © 2002 by William J. Evans and Gerald Secor Couzens

Meet the Author

Gerald Secor Couzens is the author and coauthor of more than two dozen books about health, medical topics, and sports. He also writes for various publications, including The New York Times. Couzens is the co-creator and, for the past fifteen years, the managing editor of The Johns Hopkins Prostate Bulletin.

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