Burn Less Calories and Live Longer?

A very interesting study was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), ultimately concluding that mammals who burn LESS calories per day live longer. There’s no doubt that a slower, more relaxed, laid back pace to life implies less overall stress, but can humans really attribute their extended life span to a slower caloric burn?

More importantly, does this mean that exercising to burn additional energy (calories) will shorten our lives?

The study, published in January of this year (2014), tested the daily caloric burn of 17 primate species over a 10 day period, and found that humans burn only half the calories of other mammals with shorter lives. Interestingly, researchers suggested that humans “would need to run a marathon each day just to approach the average daily energy expenditure of a mammal their size.”

I outline the detrimental long-term effects of exercising to ‘burn calories’ in Eat Meat And Stop Jogging, including the oxidative stress one can expect from long and frequent endurance exercise, but to think that our daily energy expenditure has an effect on our lifespan makes the ‘Case Against Cardio’ even more convincing.

Surprisingly, this is not the first scientific support for exercising less to live longer, as a book, titled “The Joy of Laziness: How to Slow Down and Live Longer,” was published in 2005 by Peter Axt – a retired professor of Health Sciences.


In Axt’s musings with his daughter, a General Practitioner, he suggests that we all have a limited amount of ‘life energy,’ and the rate at which we burn this energy up, determines our lifespan. He states:

“‘If you lead a stressful life and exercise excessively, your body produces hormones which lead to high blood pressure and can damage your heart and arteries.”

Axt and his daughter are absolutely correct that the oxidative stress and free radical accumulation from chronic and lengthy exercise does more harm than good. As I’ve written, over-exercising elevates the exact consequences associated with aging:

  • Loss of Muscle Mass (& Bone)
  • Decreased Sexual Hormones
  • Increased Oxidative Stress
  • Conversion from Type II to Type I Muscle Fibers
  • Disrupted Immune Function

Although it’s been proven that a reduction in calories can extend life, there are other ways to satisfy this requirement and enjoy the benefits, without the negative consequences of a chronic caloric deficit.  Exercise should focus on building a stronger more powerful frame, not ‘burning calories.’ When you exercise to ‘burn,’ you end up burning strength, muscle, bone, hormones…and apparently LIFESPAN!

Stay Lean!

Coach Mike


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