Strongman vs. Smoking (Death)

In Strongman Mastery by Logan ChristopherLeave a Comment

Scott asks:

I enjoy the emails you send me about the old time strongmen and other topics. Every Sunday the folks at sends me a newsletter which often features a story about a well known pipe smoker.
This is entirely anecdotal but it seems to me the pipe smokers outlive the strongmen by a considerable margin.

My great-grandfather, Grampa Whiting, was born in 1880 and smoked a pipe morning, noon, and night until he passed on in 1977. I had an uncle that smoked a pipe constantly till he was 85 and decided to shoot himself in the head.

Again, it’s all anecdotal but I find it curious. Maybe, this strongman stuff follows the u-shaped curve and the old guys drove themselves too hard.

What’s the relationship between building strength and longevity? Could smoking a tobacco pipe be a positive habit in some respects?

There certainly are examples of smokers living long ages. No doubt about it. But they do tend to be exceptions to the rule. The epidemiological evidence against smoking tobacco is quite strong. Some of that science is covered here

I wonder if indeed there is something different about pipe tobacco compared to what is in cigarettes that could also play a role?

But once again, though there are those anecdotes, there are many others dying earlier.

Another good question is what is it about those long-lived smokers that set them apart? Is it just genetics (doubtful), or some other useful habits they tend to have?

Some strongmen did indeed die early. Saxon, Warren Lincoln Travis, many others. But many of them were smokers, including pipes. Some like Saxon were also heavy drinkers, ate crazy amounts of food, and more.

Strength does not mean health necessarily. It’s a component. In other words, all else being equal, I’ll take a stronger person over a weaker person to be healthier.

But there might actually be a point of excess, especially considering most things have that point.

When it comes to fitness and health, it is not just about strength. After all, powerlifters aren’t outliving everyone else!

If you’re going for longevity, you also want to have flexibility, mobility, endurance, all-around athleticism. This is a much better indicator than strength alone.

We can see things like grip strength being correlated with less mortality from all causes.

We can see things like being able to get up and down off the ground without using your hands being correlated with less mortality from all causes. (See Stand Up Challenge.) 

We can see things like lung capacity correlated with less death from any cause. (See Upgrade Your Breath.) 

And that’s all still just fitness. For longevity, all the other factors of sleep, environment, social, diet, etc. are very important as well.

If we look at the strongmen who paid attention to this other stuff we’ll often see better longevity than average.

That’s personally what I’m aiming for. And of course, it’s not just about the length of life, but the quality of life during all those years.

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