[Minimum] Steps to Get There

This is a follow-up on my post, The Maximum Human Life Span and Conjecture on Step Counts to Get There (15,000 Steps a Day). According to this research:

“By analyzing data on tens of thousands of people across four continents compiled between 15 existing studies, a team of researchers has now landed on a more comfortable figure: the optimal number is probably closer to 6,000 steps per day, depending on your age.”

-Mike McRae, “Scientists Identify The Optimal Number of Daily Steps For Longevity, And It’s Not 10,000.” Science Alert. March 4, 2022

This is a meta-analysis, which means it’s probably largely useless. But, it might be a good minimum level of steps to consider. Add in a weighted backpack, or rucksack, and it’s probably good, minimum advice.

bash: Last Day, The People Who Lived As Many Days as You

Definitions

  • bash: This is the command line, where you can run relatively simple scripted programs, available on all three major computing platforms.
  • SPARQL: On the Internet, there are repositories of information. Some of these repositories are in a format called RDF, or Resource Description Framework. Users of these repositories typically need a subset of the information contained in them. In order to get the desired information, they need a way to query these repositories in a structured way to get the information they want. SPARQL is that querying language.
  • Wikidata is an RDF repository. It is hosted by the same organization as Wikipedia, but it is subject to different rules. I do not think Notability and some of the cultural problems of Wikipedia extend to Wikidata. I’d be happy to hear if anyone is aware of problems in the dataset, since this is one of the few times I’ve worked with it.

Inspiration

Most mornings, my wife and I read The New York Times The Morning Briefing. Typically, this will include an obituary of a celebrity. If the person is less than 80 years old, my wife will say something like, “They died young.” She thinks everyone should live to be a hundred years of age.

I tend to think more relativistically. Someone died young, if they were younger than me. It got me thinking, “Is it possible to write a script to find out who lived exactly the same number of days I have lived today?”

It turns out to be fairly easy to do using bash, a SPARQL query link and Wikidata.

bash script

#!/bin/bash
# variables
BIRTHDAY=$(date -d '2000-01-01' +%s) # enter birthday in YYYY-MM-DD format
TODAYS_DATE=$(date +%s)
DAYS_ALIVE=$(((TODAYS_DATE - BIRTHDAY) / 86400)) # converts seconds to days

# Test output
# echo "birthday: ${BIRTHDAY} | today's date: ${TODAYS_DATE} | days_alive: ${DAYS_ALIVE}"

#url for sparql query of wikidata can be obtained: https://query.wikidata.org/, click link to it below
firefox 'https://query.wikidata.org/embed.html#SELECT%20DISTINCT%20%3Fperson%20%3FpersonLabel%20%3FpersonDescription%20WHERE%20%7B%0A%20%20SERVICE%20wikibase%3Alabel%20%7B%20bd%3AserviceParam%20wikibase%3Alanguage%20%22%5BAUTO_LANGUAGE%5D%22.%20%7D%0A%20%20%7B%0A%20%20%20%20SELECT%20DISTINCT%20%3Fperson%20%3FpersonLabel%20%3FpersonDescription%20%7B%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%3Fperson%20wdt%3AP31%20wd%3AQ5%3B%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20wdt%3AP569%20%3Fborn%3B%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20wdt%3AP570%20%3Fdied%3B%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20wdt%3AP27%20wd%3AQ30%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20BIND(%3Fdied%20-%20%3Fborn%20AS%20%3FageInDays).%20%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20FILTER(%3FageInDays%20%3D%20'"$DAYS_ALIVE"').%20%20%0A%20%20%20%20%7D%0A%20%20%20%20LIMIT%2025%0A%20%20%7D%0A%7D%0A'

bash script output

SPARQL query

You can input the following into the Wikidata SPARQL query interface and change the perimeters. Specifically, the bash variable $DAYS_ALIVE needs to be changed to an integer to work in the query interface, e.g., FILTER(?ageInDays = 11000). You can also do ranges using multiplication, e.g., FILTER(?ageInDays < (31*365) && ?ageInDays > (30*365)), if you want people between the ages of 30 to 31.

SELECT DISTINCT ?person ?personLabel ?personDescription WHERE {
  SERVICE wikibase:label { bd:serviceParam wikibase:language "[AUTO_LANGUAGE]". }
  {
    SELECT DISTINCT ?person ?personLabel ?personDescription {
      ?person wdt:P31 wd:Q5;             # any person
              wdt:P569 ?born;            # that has a birth date
              wdt:P570 ?died;            # and a death date
              wdt:P27 wd:Q30             # that was a citizen of the United States
      BIND(?died - ?born AS ?ageInDays). # calculate days they lived
      FILTER(?ageInDays = $DAYS_ALIVE).  # match the number of days to your current number of days alive
    }
    LIMIT 25
  }
}

Live Long & Prosper

“Behavioral scientists have spent a lot of time studying what makes us happy (and what doesn’t). We know happiness can predict health and longevity, and happiness scales can be used to measure social progress and the success of public policies. But happiness isn’t something that just happens to you. Everyone has the power to make small changes in our behavior, our surroundings and our relationships that can help set us on course for a happier life.”

-Tara Parker-Pope, “How To Be Happy.” The New York Times.

Open Question: What does it mean to be “happy”?

In brief, the author seems to take the ideas of Blue Zones:, i.e., places where people tend to be exceptionally long lived, and flesh these concepts out with “happiness” research. The nine key ideas of Blue Zones:

  1. Move naturally, or have a lifestyle that incorporates movement without doing movement for movement’s sake, a.k.a. as exercise.
  2. Have a purpose.
  3. Downshift, take time every day, week, month and year to do nothing or be contemplative.
  4. The 80% Rule for eating. Eat until you are 80% full.
  5. Eat mostly plants.
  6. Drink alcohol in moderation, 1-2 servings a day.
  7. Belong to a community.
  8. Prioritize your relationships.
  9. Make sure the relationships are with good people.

The New York TimesHow to Be Happy” reframes these into categories: Mind, Home, Relationships, Work & Money & Happy Life. Then, it attempts to provide more detailed advice.

Mind

  1. Become acquainted with cognitive behavioral therapy, i.e., become proficient at managing negative thinking.
  2. Boxed breathing for acute situations and breath focused meditation to cultivate a more equanimical disposition.
  3. Rewrite your personal story, positive without the pedestal.
  4. Exercise.
  5. Make an effort to look for the positive in any situation.

Home

  1. Find a good place to live and a good community within it to be part of.
  2. Be out in a natural setting.
  3. Keep what you need, discard the rest.

Relationships

  1. Spend time with happy people. Conversely, avoid the unhappy and the unlucky, the stupid, Hoodoos, toxic people, psychic vampires, and associated others. Obviously, the negative formulation is a hot topic here at cafebedouin.org.
  2. Get a pet. [Editors note: Pets, children and other people aren’t going to make you happy, save you, etc.]
  3. Learn to enjoy being alone. In this historical moment, with fewer communities and relationships mediated through the Internet, it’s an important skill. If you can’t manage it, find ways around it, e.g., join an intentional community. If you are turning on the radio or television to hear human voices and escape your own thoughts, you might want to think about finding ways of being better company to yourself.

Work and Money

  1. Money isn’t going to make you happy. The more money you have past a certain threshold, the more problems you will have. But, being poor is no virtue and is its own source of suffering. Try to avoid the material extremes.
  2. The New York Times wants you to find your purpose at work. Right livelihood is important, but defining ourselves through our work is a major issue post-industrial age. When surnames became necessary, people chose their occupation. Think of all the occupational last names: Smith, Miller, Cooper, etc. The problem with finding purpose at work is it often turns into our life’s purpose. Our life should be about more than work.
  3. Find ways to reclaim your time, which I interpret to mean work less.

Happy Life

  1. Be generous. Show gratitude.
  2. Do things for other people.
  3. Stop being a judgmental prick to yourself and others.

Conclusion

Something about The New York Times presentation leaves much to be desired. Is it the focus on work? Is it because much of it seems like platitudes? I’m not entirely sure. The ideas aren’t bad, particularly the ones that stem directly from Blue Zone suggestions. But, the focus on “nesting” in the bedroom, volunteering (with the implication that it be the modern form and involve some kind of institution) and so forth managed to rub me the wrong way. But, most of this is good advice, when you get down to the nut of it.

Ahead of the Castration Trend

“According to new research, there may be a surprisingly effective way for men to increase their lifespans — but it requires a pretty severe alteration to the physical body that may not appeal to everybody.

An international team led by researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand were able to show that castration of male sheep delays the aging of DNA, and the same principles could apply to humans as well.

–Victor Tangermann, “Wanna Delay Aging? Get Castrated, Scientists Say
It’s not an ideal solution
..” Futurism. July 7, 2021.

I’ll just point to “Ask Your Doctor: Is Castration Right For You?” published on this very blog on May 25, 2017. Now, we can add sheep to the myriad examples.

The Maximum Human Life Span and Conjecture on Step Counts to Get There (15,000 Steps a Day)

“For the study, Timothy Pyrkov, a researcher at a Singapore-based company called Gero, and his colleagues looked at this “pace of aging” in three large cohorts in the U.S., the U.K. and Russia. To evaluate deviations from stable health, they assessed changes in blood cell counts and the daily number of steps taken and analyzed them by age groups.

For both blood cell and step counts, the pattern was the same: as age increased, some factor beyond disease drove a predictable and incremental decline in the body’s ability to return blood cells or gait to a stable level after a disruption. When Pyrkov and his colleagues in Moscow and Buffalo, N.Y., used this predictable pace of decline to determine when resilience would disappear entirely, leading to death, they found a range of 120 to 150 years…

The researchers also found that with age, the body’s response to insults could increasingly range far from a stable normal, requiring more time for recovery. Whitson says that this result makes sense: A healthy young person can produce a rapid physiological response to adjust to fluctuations and restore a personal norm. But in an older person, she says, “everything is just a little bit dampened, a little slower to respond, and you can get overshoots,” such as when an illness brings on big swings in blood pressure.”

-Emily Willingham, “The Maximum Human Life Span Is 150 Years, New Research Estimates
A study counts blood cells and footsteps to predict a hard limit to our longevity
.” Scientific American. May 25, 2021.

Open Questions: How many steps a day are required for optimum fitness and health? Is there also a strength measurement that can be used to add an additional dimension?

The Nature research article is available online. I think the interesting thing about this study is it is another example where step counts are used as a proxy for health. There are recent studies in JAMA, Journal of Sport and Health Science, and others that suggest that increasing step counts lowers overall morbidity and mortality in older adults.

As an N of 1 thought experiment, I checked my daily step count over the last year. I average just over 10,000 steps a day. There are studies that classify step counts in the following way:

  • sedentary category (<5000 steps/day)
  • low active (5000-7499 steps/day),
  • somewhat active (7500-9999 steps/day)
  • active (≥10,000 steps/day)

The same study also makes the following observation: “We also observed that each 1000 steps/day increase in [physical activity] level over the 6-month follow-up was associated with a 0.26-kg (95% CI −0.29 to −0.23) [or just over 0.5 pounds] decrease in weight.”

The math is pretty easy. Let’s suppose 1,000 steps is about half a mile or a kilometer. That’s about ~60-75 calories, depending on intensity, walking or running. Let’s say 6 months is 182 days. So, 60 calories * 182 days = ~11,000 calories. That’s about 3 pounds or a bit over a kilo. Factor in additional urge to eat, and it sounds about right.

So, as a rule of thumb: Increasing step counts by 1,000 will generally reduce your weight by 1 pound a year, as well as your overall risk of morbidity and mortality. There’s probably some point of negative returns. I’ve seen some reports talking about hunter-gatherer groups walking on average around 7 or 8 miles a day, which would roughly be around 14,000 to 16,000 steps / day, which is probably a good benchmark comparison with humanity over an evolutionary time frame rather than comparing our activity with other people in our historical moment. Which I suppose suggests that I, and practically everyone, have some work to do to get our physical activity to an optimum level.

Cottage Cheese Loaf / Vegetarian Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. cottage cheese
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 envelope of dry onion soup mix
  • 1 cup of finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups of corn flakes
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion

Preparation

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan. Mix ingredients together in large bowl. Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan. Bake 60-70 minutes. Take out of oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve.

Comment

Just read about this for the first time yesterday in this article on the longevity of Seventh Day Adventists. Recipe is from food.com. I just wanted to make a note of it here, so I remember to try it sometime.

Ask Your Doctor: Is Castration Right for You?

I came across a book on Amazon the other day, “Castration: The Advantages and the Disadvantages,” by Victor T. Cheney. I have to admit I initially found it hilarious. Between my social conditioning, the slightly humorous reviews, the fact that Amazon makes it very clear that the item is available for gift wrap, it made me laugh.

But, as I took a closer look, it seems to be offered in earnest; it is a topic of interest for the author because he had to undergo castration as part of a treatment for his prostate cancer. Perhaps the most interesting thing is the book makes a scientific claim, i.e., castration tends to prolong life.

Up to this point, the only scientific claim I’ve ever seen for prolonging life is calorie restriction. “Calorie restriction (CR) extends life span and retards age-related chronic diseases in a variety of species, including rats, mice, fish, flies, worms, and yeast.” But, the trouble is this: “Whether prolonged CR increases life span (or improves biomarkers of aging) in humans is unknown. In experiments of nature, humans have been subjected to periods of nonvolitional partial starvation. However, the diets in almost all of these cases have been of poor quality. The absence of adequate information on the effects of good-quality, calorie-restricted diets in nonobese humans reflects the difficulties involved in conducting long-term studies in an environment so conducive to overfeeding.”[1]

There is a similar problem with castration. There is evidence that castrated dogs live longer:

“The initial dataset contained 80,958 records of dog death. When juvenile dogs and those with unknown sterilization status were removed there were 70,574 FC dogs, representing 185 breeds. The average number of diagnoses recorded per dog was 2.9 (range 1-32). Overall, 30,770 (43.6%) dogs were intact and 39,804 (56.4%) dogs were sterilized at the time of death. The mean age of death for intact dogs was 7.9 years versus 9.4 years for sterilized dogs.[2]”

One and a half years is a ~19% increase. If we assume a similar increase in humans over the current average life expectancy of ~75 years for U.S. men, this would be an additional 14 years of life.

There is evidence that supports this level of additional life expectancy:

“To examine the effects of castration on longevity, we analyzed the lifespan of historical Korean eunuchs. Korean eunuchs preserved their lineage by adopting castrated boys. We studied the genealogy records of Korean eunuchs and determined the lifespan of 81 eunuchs. The average lifespan of eunuchs was 70.0 ± 1.76 years, which was 14.4-19.1 years longer than the lifespan of non-castrated men of similar socio-economic status. Our study supports the idea that male sex hormones decrease the lifespan of men.”[3]

But, it’s not conclusive. One obvious problem with the Korean eunuch data is we would need to know whether castration provides a longevity benefit when average life expectancy has increased to current levels.

So, does castration lengthen the lifespan of human males? Is it a testable hypothesis? Presumably, it is possible to collect data on lifespans of people that have been castrated for one reason or another via a national health database and if the set was large enough, to statistically control for the effects of cancer, madness and other factors on lifespan. Still, it wouldn’t be conclusive.

Testing this hypothesis would require a sufficiently large study of male volunteers willing to undergo castration in order to further our knowledge of its impact on lifespan. But, this seems impossible. Who would do it? How would make sure that this was a freely elected decision? Could an experiment of this sort even make it through an Institutional Review Board, even in the unlikely scenario where you found an academic researcher willing to stake their career on a study such as this? Is even considering a study like this ethical?

In the end, it is extremely unlikely there will be a definitive study on castration, with an infinitesimally small chance of it happening in my lifetime. So, I’ll never know for certain whether castration would improve my chances of living longer. But, the evidence seems to suggest that it an option worth considering. If I were to go to my doctor and ask whether castration is right for me, what do you think the chances she’ll refer me to a good psychiatrist rather than a good surgeon?