Longevity Lifestyle #3 - Exercise & Mitochondrial Health

Longevity Lifestyle Series








Reference Lab

Mar 07, 2022



The Longevity Lifestyle Series will be a series of informative posts featuring simple and affordable science-backed practices that have been proven to extend longevity. You can incorporate each practice into your daily life to feel more energetic, to slow the rate of your aging, and to improve your healthspan (the number of years you live healthy and disease-free). 

Each post will include science-based explanations for why each practice improves healthspan and tips on how to best incorporate them, based on personal experience and research from the author. 

Original posts can be found at livelongerworld.substack.com, a newsletter dedicated to delivering actionable tips and science-backed protocols to optimize health and extend longevity.

Topics to be featured in the series:

  1. Cold showers / cold exposure
  2. Fasting (intermittent fasting + longer fasts)
  3. Exercise and mitochondrial health
  4. Sleep (the science behind sleep’s impact and sleep tips)
  5. Sauna
  6. Longevity foods and gut health (+ what not to eat)
  7. Supplements for longevity (vitamins and minerals)


Meet the author
: Aastha Jain is a longevity enthusiast who commits herself to performing in-depth research on health optimization techniques, often self-experimenting, to deliver actionable and impactful recommendations to effectively extend your healthspan through her newsletter, livelongerworld.substack.com. She takes the time to do the research and test each health optimization practice so you don’t have to!

Besides her writing, she is also the host of the Live Longer World Podcast through which she interviews researchers, entrepreneurs, and advocates who are transforming the field of longevity science. You can find her podcast, Live Longer World, on all platforms including YouTube, Apple podcasts, and Spotify.

Newsletter | YouTube | Podcast | Twitter: @aasthajz | Instagram: @aasthajz

A trusted resource:

“Aastha is an inspiring longevity enthusiast who does an incredible job in curating, simplifying, and summarizing science-based content, offering a valuable resource to guide us on our journey to a healthier, longer life.”

— Carolina Oliveira Reis, PhD, OneSkin CEO & Co-Founder

Yes, Yes I Know Exercise is Good for me…thanks Mom!

I love to discuss the science behind why exercise is great for health. Even though I know that it’s one of the best interventions for your brain & longevity, I like to read all the studies outlining the beneficial effects of exercise.

Whenever a new study comes out, I look at Doug and say:

“Omg can you believe it? This study shows how exercise can reverse brain aging even when we are older?” or “So & so study….” Doug pretends to find the study cool, but his true reaction is more like: “Cool story, bro. I know it’s beneficial and I exercise. I don’t care to read every scientific article on it.”


Most people are probably in the camp where they know exercise is good for them, but they struggle to find the time to exercise. This post serves as a resource for what I think are some of the highest impact exercises to focus on if you are strapped for time or even otherwise.

I don’t think you realize just how good exercise is for you!

But before that - sorry I can’t help myself! I have to talk about some of the amazing longevity and cognitive benefits of exercise because I think it’s underrated.

If exercise were a stock, in my opinion it’s highly undervalued. I would scoop up as much as I could!  In a recent podcast with Joe Rogan, Peter Attia (a longevity-focused doctor) mentioned:

“Exercise is the single most important longevity drug we have. If you said, I want to go deep down the rabbit hole of living longer, what do I need to do? It’s a super well-crafted exercise program that is geared towards strength, muscle mass, and cardiorespiratory fitness. Smoking and diabetes will double or triple your risk of death. Having a very high cardiorespiratory fitness is a 5x reduction in all-cause mortality.”

That’s mind-blowing! There is no other drug that can reduce your risk of death (death caused by disease) by 5x. The only one is Exercise. Ponder on that for a bit.

Some other benefits of exercise listed here:

  1. Exercise is the single best intervention for brain health!
    • Exercise boosts BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which is a growth factor that promotes the growth of new neurons
    • Exercise has also been shown to boost memory & creativity
  2. Exercise can protect against depression
  3. Exercise makes you happy - it releases endorphins which are hormones that help relieve stress and enhance mood
  4. Exercise promotes mitochondrial biogenesis
    • Mitochondrial biogenesis is the formation of new, healthy mitochondria. Mitochondria are responsible for our cells producing energy and as we age, the mitochondria begins to get dysfunctional. Hence, mitochondrial biogenesis is particularly useful in maintaining energy levels with age
  5. Recent studies show that exercise can even reverse brain aging!
  6. And of course, all of us know how exercise can keep us in physical shape

To sum up, exercise is the single best intervention for cognitive and physical health, mood, energy, and longevity. What can it not do! :P

01 Okay, now tell me some exercises to focus on:

Okay, now tell me some exercises to focus on:

With that rant on the benefits of exercise, I am finally ready to move on to some of the highest-impact exercises you can focus on. Below I break out the exercises for each of the following categories:

Below I break out the exercises for each of the following categories:

  1. High-Intensity Training
  2. Weightlifting / Resistance Training
  3. Cardiovascular Exercise

02High Intensity Training 🏃‍♀️

High Intensity workouts confer the biggest bang for buck - you will be sweating in 10 minutes and get a solid workout in.

TABATA Workout:

Tabata training is a high-intensity interval training, the goal of which is to perform the maximum number of movements in the minimum amount of time.

Here is my TABTATA (no-equipment) protocol:

  1. Jumping Jacks
  2. Jump Squats / Kettlebell swings (if you possess one)
  3. Mountain Climbers / Push-Ups
  4. High-Knees / Burpees
  5. Plank / Another Ab workout

I do 20 seconds of each exercise followed by 10 seconds rest. Then move on to the next exercise. For example, 20 seconds Jumping Jacks, 10 seconds rest, then 20 seconds Jump Squats, 10 seconds rest and so on until you finish the 20 seconds of the ab workout.

That would complete one set. So, one set here is each of the above exercises.

Repeat the entire set of exercises 4-5x times.

I use the app TABATA timer to time the intervals.

[Credit: I have my brother, Anubhav, to thank for introducing me to TABATA!]

Sprint Interval Training:

Sprint Interval training is another form of high intensity workout. These are more grueling than TABATA (at least for me), but play an important role in your exercise protocol by improving endurance and preserving muscle mass.
In theory, it’s simple:

  • 30 second sprint, 30 second rest
  • Repeat 4-5 times

That’s it. In practice, it’s a lot more difficult. I recommend doing Sprint Interval Training 1x / week.

03 Strength / Resistance Training 🏋️‍♀️:

Strength training focuses on building muscle mass and strength. Why does muscle matter?

Muscle mass and strength is a strong indicator of longevity. This is because muscle mass decreases with age contributing to frailty and sarcopenia increasing the likelihood of falls and fractures with age. Muscle mass protects you from rainy days and can even protect you against diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease, arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

In fact, some studies have shown that muscle mass and strength are the best protectors against brain aging!

What are some of the highest impact strength exercises to focus on?

The glutes (buttocks) is the largest muscle in your body, followed by your quadriceps, followed by your lat. muscles (back).

So it makes sense that the highest impact weightlifting exercises would be those that work your glutes and quads. What are they?

  1. Deadlifts: I’m a huge fan of deadlifts. They are a compound exercise that work your entire body, but the focus is on leg muscles.
    • Good form matters a lot when it comes to deadlifts as it’s easy to injure yourself. So if you’re starting out, you want to get a trainer / friend to teach you the correct form and likely begin with lower weights
  2. Kettlebell Swings: Amazing exercise for hips, legs, glutes, shoulders - basically full body. You can do ~50 swings everyday in 5-10 minutes - isn’t that incredible?
    • See this video by Tim Ferriss for good kettlebell swings form
    • You don’t even need a gym membership to get started with this. Simply buy a Kettlebell and you can use it for swings + squats at home itself!
  3. Squats: Squats come a close second to deadlifts! The plus about squats is that you are less prone to injury, they’re easier than deadlifts to get your form correct, and also good for every comfort level.
    • You can do different variations of squats based on your comfort level with doing them:
      • You can do different variations of squats based on your comfort level with doing them:
      • If you are new, you can get started without any weights (just do air squats / bodyweight squats)
      • Then you can advance to doing squats using a dumbbell or kettlebell
      • Then you can start using a squat rack and adjust the weights accordingly

A day of deadlifts + kettlebell swings or squats + kettlebell swings would be a solid workout day. If you have less time, even doing 1 of these exercises is good!

After legs, the next focus should be to work out your back. Some good back exercises are pull-ups and barbell rows.

If you are new to lifting, I’d recommend starting with kettlebell swings and squats (with or without weights), but make sure to get your form correct. Get a friend or trainer to teach you good form. Or you can watch some Athlean X videos - I generally don’t rely on videos and prefer to learn from people at the gym, but if you don’t have access to that, I think Athlean X is a pretty good source. If anyone has better recommendations, let me know!

(P.S. If you are a girl, please don’t think lifting doesn’t matter for you! Girls need muscle too. I’m a huge proponent for getting women to lift more.)

04 Aerobic Exercise: Cardio / Zone 2 training + Sauna 🎾

Cardiovascular fitness benefits heart health, immune system, lung capacity, etc.

When I say cardio, I mean Zone 2 training - think of it as the level of activity you can do while still holding a conversation. So, running at a capacity that allows you to still hold a conversation.

There is not much to explain here, so I’m going to list a couple of exercises that fall in this category. These include running / jogging, biking / cycling, playing a sport (tennis, basketball), swimming, and dancing.

If you are looking for a running program that holds you accountable and allows you to be part of a community, check out NeoCoach. You can try it for free for a week. 

Sauna

Another protocol to add to your exercise list is Sauna! I’m a huge fan of saunas. It mimics cardiovascular exercise and has other added benefits such as reduced risk of cardiac death, heart disease, stroke, all-cause mortality, and Alzheimer’s disease!

05 Quick Tips to Stay Active 🚴

  • Use a standing desk while working! Most of us sit too much which is often a cause for lower back pain and leads to our hips becoming less flexible. If you can’t afford to buy a standing desk, there are creative ways to make one. See my makeshift standing desk at a place I was staying at previously.
  • Walk while you talk / Do walking meetings
  • Go for a walk after a meal that’s not so healthy. It can help blunts the glucose spikes. As I wrote in a recent email to premium subscribers, you want your glucose peaks to be low and to be less frequent. Even if you spike it once a week with say a cheat dessert, it can contribute to worse health outcomes! So be careful of spiking your glucose too much and too frequently.
  • Exercising before a feast meal can also blunt the glucose spikes and direct the glucose to your muscle instead of fat. Even 10 minutes can help! This is a pretty neat trick to use before we start indulging in those Thanksgiving and Christmas meals!

Stretch out and make your glutes more flexible! See these glute exercises by Peter Attia.

06 My Exercise Protocol 🤸‍♀️

I don’t have a set regimen but my typical week looks something like:

  • Tennis: 3-4x / week
  • Running: 1-2x / week
  • Weightlifting: 3-4x / week
    • Leg day (1-2x / week)
    • Back day (1-2x / week)
    • Chest + Shoulders day (1x / week)
  • >High Intensity Training: 1-2x / week (I want to increase this to 2-3x / week)
  • Sauna: 4-5x / week)

Yes you’re right - there aren’t more than 7 days in a week. Clearly, on some days I combine exercises. For example, on one particular day I might do tennis + chest & shoulders or on another day I’ll do TABATA + running. I typically go to the sauna at the end of every workout.

I usually exercise for 10-12 hours every week. Yes I know that might seem like a lot but I love it and as I’ve said it’s the most important intervention for longevity. As you all already know, I’m a sucker for longevity benefits and for being healthy even when I’m old.

07 One Last Important Note ✅

I want to make it clear that I’m not advocating for simply 10 minutes of exercise a day.

This post is meant to be for those who are finding it difficult to begin exercising and exercises to focus on when you are strapped for time, because 10-20 minutes is better than 0 minutes.

Of course, you can design your own workout protocol, this post is merely suggesting a few solid exercises. Design the workout that works best for you, but I recommend incorporating both cardio and strength training!

Also, you don’t have to workout as much as I do, but aim for at least 150 minutes every week - it’s the guideline recommended by the CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention). In my opinion, it’s a low minimum, but people would be better off doing something over nothing!

Once you start exercising, I think you’d automatically want to up your protocol. It’s just a matter of getting going! 🚣‍♂️

As always, thanks for reading and feel free to message me with any feedback. Stay in good health!

Aastha

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

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