How to Die Living and Not Live Dying (with transcript)
Fred Bartlit is a trial lawyer considered by Chambers USA Legal Rankings 2017 as, "arguably the best trial lawyer in the United States."
He is also the only trial attorney to have been selected by two U.S. Presidents from two different parties for representation on cases. Fred co-founded StrongPath.com and co-authored Choosing the Strongpath--both created to educate adults on how strength training can help combat disease.
Frank: As always I am excited about our guest today. Fred Bartlit, a trial lawyer considered by Chambers USA Legal Rankings 2017 to arguably be the best trial lawyer in the United States, has some great information to share with us today. He's also the only trial lawyer to have been selected by two U.S. Presidents from two different parties for representation on various cases.
Fred co-founded strongpath.com and co-authored Choosing the Strong Path, both created to educate adults on how strength training can help combat disease. His goal is to encourage everyone to die living, not live dying.
So, Fred, welcome to the Aging Boomers. Thanks for joining us.
Fred: I'm honored to be here. Thank you.
Frank: So you've been a trial lawyer, and now you start up this organization called StrongPath. Tell us a little more about why you started this organization.
Fred: Well, like many things important in life, there was a woman involved. And I met this woman 36 years ago, and we've now been married 32 years. I was 54 when I married her. During those years we were getting to know each other, she would always say to me, "You're not exercising enough. You're gonna die young. You're wasting your time, you've gotta start going to the gym." And I did, because I was taken by her and wanted to make her happy, and hoped she'd marry me. Which she did.
So, by the time I was 54, I started working out extremely hard with her in different gyms around the world, and then I noticed something. I noticed that as I was in my early 60s, all my buddies, skiing buddies, golfing buddies were beginning to disappear. Their knees hurt, their legs hurt, this and that hurt –– and it was preventing them from practicing the sports that they loved.
So naturally I got curious, I started doing some research on this phenomenon. I read a lot of peer reviewed medical research, and as a result everything I cite in my book is all peer reviewed. What I found is that there's a disease out there that most people don't even know they have. That every single person in America has, I have, you have; every one of your listeners has it, it's called Sarcopenia.
This disease begins tapping your strength, and destroying it at age 30. It accelerates in your 50s, and again as you get into your 60s. It basically lays waste to the last half of a lot of people's adult lives. And the amazing thing is your doctor doesn't know a thing about it.
Frank: Right. Well, I think one thing we do know, and I think hopefully many people know, is that muscle mass starts to increase as we age. And it should be a known fact at this point that exercise works wonders in keeping your body young and strong, but can you tell me a little bit more about what you found in your research?
Is it ever too late to start exercising? I mean, could it be too late? If you get into your 70s or 80s, and you really haven't exercised, and your backs, your knees, whatever it may be are hurting, did you wait too long?
Fred: Well, I'm not a physician, so I'm hesitant to give medical advice. But Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Mayo Clinic, all say, "It's never too late." Of course, you want to check with your doctor. But what these reputed institutions all say is that people that have had heart attacks, people that have had cancer, ought to exercise intensely. There’s all kinds of data out there on how intense exercise changes your life in ways you would never even imagine. So, essentially the answer is that it's never too late.
What's interesting is that this disease is far worst. A lot of people have seen their aunts and uncles and grandparents get frail as they older, but the disease is worse than anybody could imagine. The US Government, about a year ago, named it as one of the two or three worst diseases in America. This is because everybody gets it, and it ruins your life –– right now they say there’s no cure. I think they're wrong. To emphasize the severity of the situation, I’ll tell you that some of the powerhouse schools like Oxford, Harvard, and the likes, all just wrote a long article saying, "It's better to die at 75, because after 75 life is not worth living." Because of the fragility we encounter in our old age.
Fred: He's wrong.
Frank: Right. So I know that you're a practicing attorney, not a medical doctor. But, in your research, if somebody really does nothing, what specifically does sarcopenia do to us as we age?
Fred: Well, our bodies were designed by natural selection 50 thousand years ago. This was at a time when our way of life was 24/7 intense physical activity just to stay alive and feed your family. That means not only our muscles, but are eyes, blood vessels, every cell in our body, was designed specifically for intense physical exercise.
So, you put that body designed for one world in today's totally sedentary world, where the average 60 year old woman doesn’t have one hour a year of intense physical exercise. The body in this world is not matched for it and it deteriorates rapidly. It's just that simple. There's a mismatch between what our bodies were designed for and the physicaly requirements for our world at the moment.
Frank: That’s a very interesting take. I heard an interesting comment just yesterday, during a conference I was at. There were a few geriatricians speaking, and even though they didn't bring up the term sarcopenia, certainly all agreed exactly with what you're saying, that exercise is key. But it doesn’t have to be this big effort, because I think that a lot of people get scared away or intimidated out of doing exercise because they think it will be humiliating, unmanageable, etc. When the reality is that they can get the exercise they need by making small adjustments to their normal routine, like walking instead of driving to the grocery store, or biking around the neighborhood. What is your opinion on that?
Fred: Well, intense exercise changes your life forever. Any exercise is better than none. But I would say listen to what people like Harvard, The UK Medical College, and the CDC are saying, that "Exercise is a preventive and even an anecdote to disability of aging. If exercise could be bottled, it would be the most prescribed medicine. Exercise has a bigger impact on disease risk than about any other remedy."
According to the UK Academy of Medical Sciences, "Physical activity is a miracle cure for wide range of conditions, including sarcopenia." The Center for Disease Control in the US believes that "Regular physical activity is a wonder drug." Time Magazine Science of Aging wrote that "Exercise is a silver bullet that alters the natural course of aging, actually slows down the aging of cells." And if a little general exercise is better than none, then hard intense exercise is way better. I can promise you, it changes your life forever.
Frank: Yeah. So, has it shown that the strength training can avoid some of the more life threatening diseases, like heart disease, Alzheimer's, and even some cancers?
Fred: Yeah. For example, women in the top 10 percent of fitness, have a 90 percent less change of getting Alzheimer's than women in the middle cohort of fitness. 90 percent less. Ten kinds of cancer, heart disease, all are reduced from 20 to 50 percent by intense physical exercise. These chronic diseases basically didn't exist that much, 50 thousand years ago. A lot of them are just a function of complete inactivity. So, it's not just about being stronger. For example, men who exercise intensively have a 68 percent less chance of dying from prostate cancer.
Frank: That's amazing. So, can you talk to us a little bit more about strongpath? I mean, what is it exactly? Help us understand the benefits of strongpath that people could take a look at.
Fred: Strongpath is a gateway for people who are perhaps getting older and want to stay strong and avoid developing sarcopenia and other diseases. Harvard Medical School has allowed us to put on our website two or three of their videos, showing how to get started on the strongpath. It basically describes what exercises to do, how often to do them, and that sort of thing. Our website, strongpath.com, has no ads, no pop-ups, just actual research.
I've got in my book a number of people that I experimented with, whose life were changed. They went from people who were in danger for being fired from their jobs to having huge responsibilities. When you go on the strongpath, your mind changes, your thought process changes, your quickness changes, your confidence changes. As you get older, you might find yourself tiptoeing around a bit, being careful not to slip on the stairs or something. All that is dramatically reduced when you're strong.
If that all hasn’t convinced you by now, let me tell you that the only condition that is correlated with a happy years of your life from 60 to 90 is strength. This isn’t widely known however because nobody ever talks about strength these days, they only talk about being skinny. They talk about cardio, which is important. But what really saves you is pure strength, which you can only get by working hard and pumping iron.
Frank: So, how do you get the person that really never did that type of exercise their whole life involved in something like this? You know, they might've participated in some sports, but they just never pumped iron, they never did that strength exercise. How do you get them to do this?
Fred: Well, what's interesting is that with women 55 to 70, they seem to get what we're advocating quicker than most people. Successful man in their 60s and 70s, they don't like the idea of going to a gym and being weaker than all these strong young men and women who are there and that kind of thing. So, motivation, I have to confess, plays a huge part. You have to give people examples of what the downward spiral of aging is like before it really clicks for them, I think.
I mean, right now there's brand new research, no more than a couple of weeks old, that describes how our cells are actually made younger by weight training. It's a remarkable observation, and the research is just really beginning in this area.
Frank: So, what would you say is kind of the minimum amount of exercise you feel someone should get? Let's say this is for somebody in their 50s or 60s. Is it different depending upon the age group? And, how much time do you think needs to be devoted to this? And are they really working up a sweat? Explain that a little bit more please.
Fred: Yeah, the minimum is about three days a week, an hour a day, that will change your life. As with anything else, the more you do, the better it works. It's just that simple. Personally, I work out every single day. I was a US Army Ranger when I was 22, and I'm stronger now than when I was a US Army Ranger, and I'm 86. That's good.
Frank: That's great. So, what can people expect, if they go to your website? Are you providing a step by step guide to achieve the right level of fitness?
Fred: Yeah. If they go on our website, they will be blown away. I don't say that lightly. Both by the brand new research there. The videos show exactly what you do to get started. How long it takes. How intense it has to be, and that sort of thing. The videos are from Harvard and other highly reputable institutions.
Frank: Do you feel that they're gonna need a trainer in addition to this? If they had equipment at their own home, could they do at their own home? Or are you suggesting they go to a gym?
Fred: They can do it in their home. But if your focus is the baby boomers, then there’s a US Government has a program that pays for your gym dues, if you're over 65. It's called silver sneakers. With this, you can go to a gym and start with a trainer. You'll get the hang of it very quickly, and from there you can operate on your own.
Frank: Yeah. That's great. So, I think I know the answer to this question, but I'm gonna have you answer it anyway, because I’d like to get more comments from you on this. Do you think our country is ready to deal with, what we refer to as the silver tsunami that's coming?
Fred: Well, no. Congress set up a commission in 2013 to come up with the awesome accelerating cost of long term care for the 76 million some boomers. About 75 percent of people over 65 will be disabled. But what happened was that the Commission quit, because they couldn't come up with a solution. What’s happening now is the baby boomers are facing an avalanche. An avalanche of cost careening down the mountain of life, and nobody is doing a thing to prepare any of them for it. That's why I wrote this book.
Frank: Right. How can somebody get the book?
Fred: Amazon. It's called, Choosing the Strongpath: Reversing the Downward Spiral of Aging.
Frank: Great. Great.
Fred: And my name Bartlit B-a-r-t-l-i-t. I think right now, we're number one in the world in exercise for aging people. Our target audience is the 76 million boomers. Everybody sort of thinks that they'll live forever and have this great life. But now that they’re slowing down, falling down, the dynamic changes. If you fall down, and you're bedridden for a week, you lose half your strength. If you don't pump iron, you will never get it back. You’ll just get weaker, weaker and weaker, til your world shrinks around you, and you're in a room by yourself. That's what's happening. And, Congress gave up trying to do anything about it.
Frank: Yeah. That's sad. So, what do you say to those people, that do have to watch their back, or their knees, or something else, and maybe can’t do all the exercises listed on your website. What do you say to those people?
Fred: If they do the exercise, those pains will go away. Most of them come from inactivity.
Frank: Right. And, I assume that on your website, it would say those that maybe are having pains, you do different types of exercises.
Fred: Yes. Harvard has allowed us to market through our website all of their publications on strength for aging people. They say that people who had heart attacks should do this. Now, you want to check with your doctor and all that. But, most of the time people that have aches and pains will find that those aches and pains will go away, if they engage in resistance training. It's remarkable. Our bodies were designed for exercise. If we don't exercise them, they start hurting.
Frank: Yeah. So, at the very beginning of our interview, you brought up your incentives. You met a wonderful woman. She wanted you to live a long time and get healthy, and that was your incentive. What to you say to the people listening who have a loved one, whether it'll be a spouse, a parent, boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever the case may be. What suggestion do you have for them to try to get their loved ones to do what you’ve done?
Fred: If you're 60, the mode is 90. That means statistically the age you're most likely to live to is 90. That's 30 years. That's almost half your adult life. Yet for many, many people from the middle 60s on they gradually spiral down, and their live gets worse and worse. They can't do the things they love. They can't enjoy life. I mean, what's more important than life. If there was a drug you can take that would make those last 30 years wonderful, everybody would pay seven or eight thousand a year for it. The drug is called, exercise. It works.
Fred: And, that's why all of these wonderful medical institutions say again and again, "It's a miracle cure, it's a miracle drug." It makes you young again. If you can reverse the downward spiral of aging and enjoy those wonderful years. You know, I'm 86. I'm a stronger skier, a better golfer. I play basketball, I can do anything I want to. I don't have to think about it. It's wonderful to have a life and not be worry about whether you're gonna be able to get out of a chair.
Frank: So, some of those friends you've talked about at the beginning that you have that had the bad knees and all that. Did they buy into your program? Any results from people you know?
Fred: Yes. In my book, I've got eight or ten people who were out of shape, unfit, unhappy. And, we follow their progress. It is however very sad. In college, I had two roommates, an all American Lacrosse player and an all American Swimmer. They both walk with walkers now. How's sad is that?
Frank: Very. So, in their case, was maybe a little too late?
Fred: Well, maybe. In today's world, there's some kind of a disapproval on people that go to gym to workout. It's kind of a culture that is not familiar to the elite and the most educated people. Its just isn't. And, that's why I keep appearing on programs like yours. Every time I appear on a podcast like this, the sales of my book go up, and the interrogations of my website go up. That means more people thought it was worthwhile seeing what we had to teach and seeing what was on the website.
Fred: And, that's all I care about. I'm 86, and I want to make a change in peoples lives.
Frank: Well, I don't think ... I can't believe there would be a person out there to argue your facts, 'cause I know they're true. I've been in this business for a while, and I know what you're saying is absolutely correct. I think the biggest challenge is to get into the zone as they say, make that move, start doing it. I think that's the biggest challenge. Wouldn't you agree?
Fred: You are absolutely right. I was talking to somebody today, who said his wife is 60, and she wouldn't read the book. He read it and thought it was great. And she refuses to exercise at all. The average 60 year old American woman does not get one intense hour of exercise in a year. And, that's why they get frail. We all have an aunt Helen who fell down once, broke her hip, never could walk the same again, and died a few years later. That can be different from now on. People have the power to make a change.
Frank: Yeah, absolutely. So, get the book first and then go to the website? What's your suggestion?
Fred: You know what I would do, I'd go to the website, because we have the books. Been in print since December. There is new research coming out, literally every week, all peered reviewed. We put it in there immediately.
For example, when you exercise heavily, just last week it came out that you're DNA is mentholated. Now, nobody knows quite what that means, except what it results in, which is that your genes and your DNA begin functioning at a much higher level, because of intense physical activity. When you're genes operate better, your whole body is better. Your eyes, your ears, the way you do things, the way you think. The neurons in your brain. It's just not muscle. It's about your whole body functioning at a higher level, when you pump iron.
And, in research, it's just coming out now because it's only a year that the frailty in aging has not been considered inevitable. Only a year ago that it was named a disease. Now, it's a disease that everybody has, but there is a cure, and it's intense physical activity.
Frank: Right. Well, I'll tell you that was very informative. Fred, thank you so much for joining us. Check it out, Strongpath.com. I'll say get the book on Amazon. Check it out. Frank, thanks so much for joining us.
Fred: Well, I'm honored to be on your program, and I hope we can make a difference in some lives.
Frank: Great. Well, thank you and I know you will.
And, I want to thank everybody for joining us on the Aging Boomers. Just be safe out there. And, we'll talk to you all soon.