Posted: Mon, March 25, 2013 | By: Exercise
by Alex Lightman
What’s the best exercise for life extension?
There are four kinds of people in the context of this question:
1. Those who have read the relevant research (they know who Fries, Ratey, Glassman, and Weider are - without googling) and they’ve been citizen-scientists and tried it out for themselves with every type of exercise listed here, and more, keeping notes.
2. Those who know the theory of exercise and longevity, but don’t themselves exercise.
3. Those you exercise but don’t know the theory or research.
4. Those who are, objectively, so lazy they have not bothered to explore exercise nor read the literature.
It’s easy for people in the first category to talk with the others and ID them, but such a vast gulf exists conceptually between the first and fourth that little actual debate is possible.
So I am seeking to debate people in the first category.
My starting point is to ask, “What goes wrong at a predictable linear rate that can be repaired at an equal or greater rate?” and “What exercises repair which types of breakdown?” and “What best practices are necessary to keep the exercise itself from causing harm?”
My answers to these questions is that there are at least five linear decay functions (my term): telomeres, neurons, muscle mass, bone mass, and VO2 max. My subjective opinion is if you don’t know what these are and why you don’t want them getting worse - that you’ve wasted your time and life.
Telomeres can be lengthened by running. Look it up. Is there any other evidence of a physical activity lengthening telomeres? If so, that’s an option. If not, running needs to be on your “must do” list. However, over 70% of new runners get injured their first year, so you need to do more homework and lay a foundation to avoid injury and becoming one of millions (I personally know thousands) who complain of knee and hip problems.
Neurons are added via neurogenesis. Who wants to live much longer if you are losing brain cells and not replacing them? Please say you don’t. The world doesn’t need more people losing net brain cells. Running 45 minutes at 75% max heart rate triggers neurogenesis, as long as you learn something new within three weeks. Women have an advantage over men: they trigger neurogenesis at only 65% max heart rate. The default is that max heart rate is 220 minus your age, but the more personal your number, via better techniques, the better.
Muscle mass is added via weight lifting. The 3/18/2013 winner of The Biggest Loser, Danni, gained 19 pounds of muscle in three months, which is something to aim for if you want, but it is rarely achieved. More muscle mass is associated with longer life, and can also let you walk away from accidents that would injure other. Recently I walked away from falling down stairs backwards and crashing my bike at 25 miles an hour on an oil slick. Bruises, yes, but nothing broken.
Bone mass is added via weight lifting, especially the heavy deadlifts and clean & jerk.
The combo of bone mass and muscle mass and neurons lets you avoid the dreaded stumbling, falling, and breaking a hip, and accident that, at least until recently, led to an increase in co-morbitities for every cause of death but two, such that a person’s odds of dying after age 65 with a broken hip were 33% after 12 months and 50% after 18 months.
VO2max is increased by repeatedly running your fastest mile or intervals. There is a vast literature on this, but it starts with paying (about $200 at Phase IV in Santa Monica) for a test that takes about 45 minutes and involves running to near exhaustion on a treadmill that keeps getting faster and steeper until the gaseous composition exhailed into a face mask changes. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. My own rule of thumb is that this needs to be above 50 if you are serious about life extension (because it decreases every year after 28 for non-exercisers), above 30 to be possibly fit, above 20 to be possibly healthy, and above 10 to be alive much longer.
We are 60% oxygen, so it’s bizarre we don’t habitually measure our ability to process oxygen. But, hey, this blind spot gives me something to contribute to the radical life extension community. VO2 max is also assisted by 3x daily use of a PowerLung.
It takes seven months for ligaments and tendons to catch up with the muscles of a running program. I highly recommend biting the bullet and getting and wearing a weight vest to speed up the process, to not be one of the injured 70%.
The Fries study at Stanford of runners showed no evidence of greater injuries of long time runners vs. nonrunners with respect to knee and hip problems. Biggest wow: runners stayed out of assisted living seven years longer!
Exercise burns calories, and couple with a good diet makes you less likely to get type II diabetes, which shortens the life expectancy vs. non sufferers by an average of 15 years.
The more you do, the more you can do.
May you exercise, live long, and prosper.