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The Five Majors of the Highlands
Prioritizing all that matters for longevity
To defy age at every age, the objectives are clear and simple:
Be strong of body, heart, and mind.
Maintain a healthy body composition through sustainable diet.
Avoid paths that lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other debilitating disease.
These three goals are the universal goals of every Highlander because they define longevity. The tools to achieve these goals are also clear and simple:
Strength and cardiovascular exercise strengthen body and heart through hormetic stress response. Exercise burns calories and improves insulin resistance, helping us maintain a healthy composition. Exercise is also the ultimate “pill” to avoid disease.
Sleep provides an environment for recovery of mind and body. Sleep allows for toxins accumulated during the day to clear from our brain, protecting us from Alzheimer’s. Sleep allows for the formation of memories. Sufficient sleep also helps with improved insulin resistance, maintenance of a healthy bodyweight, and healthy hormone levels.
Nutrition provides our bodies with energy to train our bodies. Eating properly helps us maintain healthy lipid and glucose levels to avoid disease.
Life enhancing drugs help us optimize key hormones as well as lipid levels and insulin sensitivity. We want health levels of testosterone to support exercise and mental power. We want optimized levels of things like ApoB to avoid cardiovascular disease.
It’s no accident these five tools converge on the fundamental goals of longevity because . These five tools are The Majors, and Highlanders major in The Majors.
The Majors are The Majors because if you get them right, nothing else much matters. There’s no bio hack or medicinal shortcut that will do what exercise or sleep or proper nutrition will do for you. If you major in the Majors you will be strong, look fit, and your mind will be sharp.
Ranking The Majors
So which Major is the most important?
Exercise and sleep are close at the top, but I would choose to maximize my training for strength and cardio if it meant only sleeping six hours a night.
Strength will have the greatest impact on how you experience the world in terms of functional movement, confidence, bone density improvement, hormone levels, and more. Cardio will improve heart health, endurance, and insulin sensitivity. You can get a lot wrong in other areas, but if you get strength and cardio right, you can still experience a long, high quality life.
Sleep researcher Matthew Walker has described sleep as the base upon which all other health efforts rests upon. Sleep is critical for mental function, improves cardiovascular function, and allows for recovery from exercise. Humans will die more quickly from sleep deprivation than from food deprivation.
Sleep is a true base, and that’s why it gets second rank. Strength wins only by virtue of the direct functional benefit of being strong physically and mentally.
Ranking diet — nutrition and exercise — third may be the most controversial of the rankings.
There’s a meme about how it’s easier to not eat the pizza than it is to work the calories off through exercise. That’s true, but our forcing function to rank reveals something different: You can get away with eating the pizza now and then if your fitness and sleep are dialed in. You can’t if you have poor exercise habits and poor sleep habits.
Eating some sugar or some seed oils won’t kill you if your training and sleep are dialed in. You will kill them. If you focus on the other majors, your body is trained to kill the occasional toxin.
Mental power is fourth. It’s difficult to have true mental power if you aren’t somewhat healthy. If you have weight problems, heart problems, insulin resistance problems, all of these these detract from your mental power. You need to get your fitness and sleep right before you can prioritize mental power.
Life enhancing drugs and treatments should be used to augment results from the other four Majors. Using life enhancing drugs without an effective base of fitness, sleep, and nutrition renders the drugs less effective. Highlanders earn the right to use life enhancers — if they need them — for doing everything else right.
While it’s fun to debate the ranks of the majors, the Highlander must major in all The Majors. Ranking The Majors only tells us what we should focus on if there is some acute reason why we can’t invest enough time in all of these domains.
Rather than ranking, it’s more useful to see The Majors as inextricably intertwined and built on one another.
Exercise and sleep provide a common base for a healthy body and mind. Nutrition builds on top of that to fuel recovery and continued performance. Mental power depends on a base of physical and mental preparedness. Then mental power enhances your ability to push exercise and adhere to diet. Life enhancing drugs augment everything else, making it more effective.
If you have a week where you can only take care of one Major, make it exercise, but don’t neglect the other majors for too long. If you want to defy age at every age, you have to invest the time.
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