If you read my last article, you learned that moderate drinking probably won’t add years to your life. Oh well.
Let me brighten things up by admitting that I could be wrong about alcohol and longevity. How? Well before I wrote my last article, I already believed that alcohol was unhealthy. This, in fact, creates perfect conditions for confirmation bias. My years of studying psychology tell me so. In other words, maybe I just dredged up some evidence to support my existing views.
Actually I hope I’m wrong. That would be great because I love red wine.
But this article is for enhancing longevity, not potentially nuking it. Interested? Cool, because you’ll find some highly credible advice here. And since my credibility is not exactly Nobel-laureate status, I’ll use other people’s credibility to get the job done. I’ll be like a professional cyclist drafting behind real experts. With their names attached to this article, I might actually persuade you on a point or two.
And even if I can’t, you’ll still enjoy reading about Mark Sisson and Laird Hamilton – two 50 plus specimens that could dominate me in most, if not all, physical endeavors.* You’ll also benefit from the advice of Ben Greenfield – a super athlete that might stay in his 30s forever. I’m 29 by the way, and I’m no slouch. I’m a tremendous slouch, however, next to those guys.
Anyways, let’s get to the good stuff, yes?
1) Sprint like Sisson
At 64, Mark Sisson is a titan of the ancestral health movement. Plus he’s aging like you might expect a titan to age. Which is to say: not very fast.
When it comes to running though, Sisson does go very fast. And by that I mean he sprints regularly. As you might have guessed, this type of exercise – called high intensity interval training (HIIT) – can enhance longevity. Let me give you some examples.
In one paper, researchers found that intense workouts decreased mortality risk in older Australians. In another recent study, researchers discovered that HIIT training not only reversed age-related decline in muscle tissue – it also boosted protein synthesis in other parts of the body. This is good for longevity because our DNA is programmed to manufacture less protein as we age. In other words, sprinting turns back the clock on our genes.
How much sprinting should you do? Sisson recommends one devastating interval workout about every 7 to 10 days. This allows for proper recovery in the context of, for instance, strength training. Seem like too long of a recovery period? Maybe you aren’t going hard enough. “Most people who want to sprint all the time,” writes Sisson, “aren’t really sprinting.”
2) Learn like Laird
When I was learning to standup paddle board in Puerto Rico last year, I noticed my board had the word “Laird” inscribed on its surface. “You’re gonna be surfin’ like Laird Hamilton man,” the instructor joked. Then I went out on the water and surfed like Brian Stanton.
Unlike me, however, standup paddle boarding is one of many sports that big-wave legend Laird Hamilton has mastered. He’s like a 53 year old ultra-athletic kid. His secret? Never stop inventing, balancing on, and playing with an array of toys on both land and sea. Probably no one has learned more sports than Laird.
As it happens, this kind of physical-learning helps keep the brain young. German neuroscientists, in fact, just found that physical exercise slowed cognitive decline in the elderly. And of all the activities tested, learning an elaborate dance routine had the strongest brain-boosting effect. It’s on my list, I swear.
3) Control Blood Sugar Like Ben Greenfield
Health coach and biohacking phenom Ben Greenfield is not old. He’s in his mid 30s. But he makes my interest in longevity look like a weekend hobby. Greenfield has injected stem cells into his butt cheek. Need I say more?
Greenfield also recommends more, ahem, normal ways to stay young and prevent the onset of disease. One of those ways is to control blood sugar. This is important because if your blood sugar stays high for too long, you become insulin resistant. Insulin resistance refers to when insulin – a hormone used to transport glucose to your muscles, liver, etc. – stops doing its job. And when that happens, all that sugar gets stuck in your blood. Which increases your risk for cancer, dementia, and heart disease.
The easiest way to control blood sugar is to limit carbs. You need some carbs, however, to replenish muscle glycogen, promote quality sleep, and much more. So how do you control the glycemic response when you do consume carbs? Here are three tips, compliments of Ben Greenfield:
- Eat your carbs at night because that’s when you’re most insulin sensitive. This strategy also limits blood sugar fluctuations during the day.
- Do a hard workout – sprints, squats, Crossfit, etc. – a few hours before a carb-rich dinner. This will help drive the blood sugar out of the blood and into muscle tissue.
- Sprinkle cinnamon on your carbs. It will limit your blood sugar response to the meal. (Note: Greenfield recommends Ceylon cinnamon, but Cassia cinnamon is also effective**)
These anti-aging tips – sprint, learn, and control blood sugar – are simple. Which means you don’t have to spend 3 hours at the gym surrounded by drooling Neanderthals. You also don’t have to spend stupid money on cryotherapy or NAD supplements. Easy enough for me. I don’t have stupid money to spend anyway.
Nope. To improve your chances of becoming a lucid centenarian, just sprint once a week, keep learning new stuff, and pay scrupulous attention to your blood sugar. Just do what Mark Sisson, Laird Hamilton, and Ben Greenfield do. Your genes will take care of the rest.
*Maybe not tennis.
**Ferriss, T. (2012). The 4-hour body: an uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex, and becoming superhuman. New York: Harmony Books.