So, if somebody told you that you could take one magic pill that would help you live a longer healthier life, I can guarantee that you’d bite their hand off and take that magic pill. Well, I’m here to tell you there is a magic pill that can do this and it's absolutely free…. It’s called exercise! Yes, you’ve read that right. Exercise can and will improve your life span and health span if you implement it into your life. You can be told to take this and that vitamin or mineral but what you solely need to focus on before even thinking about supplementing is exercise. I’m going to touch on how you can use specific forms of exercise and why it has been shown to improve life and health span through various studies.
It is already widely acknowledged that exercise can help you get fit, reduce body fat, improve balance and reduce the risk of many diseases, such as heart disease. But multiple studies have shown that exercise can actually help you live longer.
This doesn't seem to be a crazy idea...
After all, if exercise reduces your chance of getting heart disease, lung disease or cancer, then you’ve reduced your risk of dying from these diseases.
However, the longevity benefit is not just a result of reducing your risk of chronic disease there are hundreds of other ways that you can ultimately get ill and die. There are actual cellular changes associated with a consistent exercise routine that keep you younger and slows down the dreaded ageing process. Researchers at Brigham Young University who studied the DNA of nearly 6,000 adults found that the telomeres, the end caps on chromosomes that shorten with age, were longer in people who were active compared to those who were sedentary. This correlated to about 9-year difference in cell aging between those who were active versus those who were inactive.
Another study compared the heart, lungs and muscles of active 70-year-olds, inactive 70 year olds and active 40 year olds. They found that the active older men and women had comparable heart and lung capacity and muscle strength of those who were 30 years younger.
So, it seems like a no brainer that you should be exercising if you want to lead a healthier and longer life. I’m going to delve a little deeper and tell you want forms of exercise can improve longevity and any other hacks that I use and many others do that are helping them with their longevity.
Firstly, the know benefits of exercise are touched on below:
Exercise results in other physiological changes that can help slow the ageing process down.
It is anti-inflammatory. Inflammation of muscle, ligaments & tendons in the body are associated with aging. Exercise can lessen this effect. Helping reduce the effects of osteoarthritis & osteoporosis. Meaning you’re able to move pain free, which is what everybody wants right?
Boost mood - I’ll touch on this more in a later blog, but exercise is known to release endorphins into the body post exercising. Endorphins make you feel good, improve confidence. Hence your mood is boosted.
Improve sleep - This doesn’t just mean sleeping for longer. It also means a better quality sleep so improving your deep & REM sleep. This is the period where the body is able to recover, produce growth hormone & improve brain functionality.
Also, improves cognitive function and reduce memory loss.
Improved immune system - Less time spent sick especially as we’re moving into the winter months is key. Exercise can help improve your bodies main coping mechanism to fighting off infection.
Improved digestive function - The gut actually contains over 90% of the body's serotonin levels. Serotonin is the chemical in the body that is known as the happy hormone. So, the happier your gut the happier you’ll actually be.
What form of exercise is best for longevity?
So, there are obviously a wide variety of types of exercise. Ranging from resistance training to yoga, pilates & dancing. But I’m going to discuss zones of training and what has been proven as best for improving longevity.
Training zone is essentially the level that your heart is beating in relation to your calculated maximum heart rate. There are 5 training zones and I’ve outlined what each one is below.
Is a super easy effort, probably a 4/10 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) chart (at end of article). It's so easy that you should feel ‘guilty' when you are done. You don't think you went hard enough; it didn't feel like a workout; you don't think there was any benefit because it felt too easy. If you have these types of thoughts after a Zone 1 workout, then congratulations, you are doing it right.
Should feel pretty easy as well, at least in the beginning. But you should feel as though you have to work if you've been doing this several hours. How easy is easy for Zone 2? I would recommend somewhere around 5-6/10 on the RPE scale.
Gets a little grey, and literally it is a ‘grey zone'. You typically aren't going easy enough to get the benefits of a nice easy effort and you aren't going hard enough to get the benefits of a ‘Race Pace' workout. This is an effort of about 7/10 on the RPE scale, and you can talk in one- to two-word answers.
Is your "Race Pace" zone - this is where you have burning legs and lungs and you can't keep the effort up for much more than an hour. And yes, you have to be pretty fit to keep this effort up for an hour, but by definition, your threshold is an effort you can manage for one hour. You know when you are in Zone 4 as your breathing is laboured, your arms and legs get very heavy and all you want to do is stop. This effort is 8-9+ on the RPE scale.
Shorter efforts and these are usually 9+ to 10 effort levels on the RPE scale. These efforts may last from a few seconds to maybe five or six minutes. This zone is beneficial if you are doing a lot of racing that has hard but very short efforts, such as bike racing or racing short events on the track in running.
So, which zone is where you should be basing your training if longevity is your goal?
The answer is zone 2. It has been recommended by Dr Peter Attia that for longevity you should be performing 150-200 minutes of zone 2 training each week. This in your head may seem like a lot. However, let me discuss some great ways that you can get your zone 2 training in.
So, bear in mind zone 2 should feel pretty easy. You don’t need to be wearing a heart rate tracker to work out you’re working in zone 2 the easy way is that whilst performing zone 2 training you should be able to easily hold a conversation with somebody else.
Of my zone 2 training is that once a week I will go out and jog for 60-75 minutes. It’s an easy pace and I like to pick a nice scenic route so that the mind doesn’t get bored. I usually stick in a podcast and off I go. You can literally use any form of exercise for zone 2 training along as you’re able to hold a conversation. And you can make it social. Or, you could go out hiking with your family or friends, you can go out on your bike or use a stationary bike. There are no limits on what you can or can’t do. Just make sure you’re able to hold a conversation.
Zone 2 training has so many benefits and I’ve listed them below. All of them have been linked to improving your health span and is the main reason they are linked with longevity.
Increase in the number of mitochondria (The engine of the cell)
Increase in mitochondrial efficiency
Lower resting heart rate
A decrease in blood pressure
Lower risk of injury mainly from preventing overtraining
Improves insulin resistance
Improve your resilience and ability to deal with increasing load
I’m going to be doing a series of blogs on longevity and how the health and wellness space can be best utilised to help you with yours. Ranging from nutrition for longevity and any biohacking methods that are fast becoming popular. I hope you enjoyed this blog on how exercise can improve your health and life span and how to specifically utilise a type of training.