Do you yearn for the fountain of youth? Would you like to extend your lifespan, not just in years, but in vitality and wellbeing? Then, step right in because we're about to delve into an insightful discussion from Peter Attia's appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience where he revealed the single most important longevity drug known to mankind. Spoiler alert: It's not a drug.
As a renowned longevity expert, Peter Attia argues that exercise is the best longevity drug we have, bar none. But not just any workout routine. It's about creating a super well-crafted exercise program that optimizes strength, muscle mass, and cardiorespiratory fitness.
Exercise – The Ultimate Lifespan Enhancer
In the quest for longevity, the aim isn't to just add more years to your life, but life to your years. And according to Attia, the best way to do this is through a highly-tailored exercise regime that balances strength, muscle mass, and cardiorespiratory fitness. But why these three elements?
Cardiorespiratory Fitness has a significant role in our mortality rate. Research shows that if you have very high cardiorespiratory fitness, your risk of death is reduced fivefold compared to those with below-average cardiorespiratory fitness. This is such a stark contrast that it outperforms the risk increase from adverse lifestyle factors like smoking or diabetes.
Next up, Strength. While often equated with muscle mass, Attia points out that strength is actually more critical than muscle mass for longevity. It's associated with a three-fold reduction in all-cause mortality when comparing individuals with high strength to those with low strength. Interestingly, the metrics used aren't about lifting colossal weights but focus on simple tests like grip strength, dead hang duration, or how fast you can do five reps of chair stands.
Lastly, Muscle Mass is a great proxy for strength. Attia suggests that even though strength is the key factor, having good muscle mass can contribute significantly to your longevity.
Is More Always Better?
Not quite. Attia acknowledges a point of diminishing returns in our pursuit of fitness. Specifically, for cardiorespiratory fitness, most of the benefits are obtained by going from being unfit to averagely fit. After that, the returns start to taper off.
As for strength, the data doesn't yet reveal a point of diminishing returns. High strength, regardless of how high, is consistently linked with lower mortality.
Exercise Prescription for Longevity
So, how does Attia recommend we approach exercise for longevity?
Starting with cardiorespiratory fitness, Attia suggests doing at least three hours a week of Zone 2 exercises, which means the highest level of aerobic output that you can generate while keeping lactate levels below 2 millimole. A stationary bike is an ideal tool for this, allowing you to maintain steady state and measure your output in easily understandable watts.
Alongside this, Attia proposes one session of VO2 max training per week following a 4x4 protocol: four minutes at the highest output you can sustain, followed by a four-minute recovery, repeated five times.
For strength training, the exercise program gets personalized, depending on the individual. Tests are
conducted with patients involving ten exercises normalized to their body weight and gender. One of the standards for males is the ability to hold a dead hang from a bar for two minutes and for females, a minute and a half at the age of 40.
Not a One-size-fits-all Approach
Attia stresses the importance of customization in the approach to exercise for longevity. While the principles of strength, muscle mass, and cardiorespiratory fitness remain central, the specifics need to be tailored to the individual's age, gender, and current fitness level.
For instance, someone starting from a very low level of fitness may begin with three 30-minute sessions of Zone 2 exercises per week. Then, as their fitness level improves, they can gradually increase the intensity and duration of their workouts.
Also, the tests used to measure strength may vary from individual to individual. It's not about how much you can squat or deadlift, but rather about simpler, more accessible tests like grip strength, the ability to do an air squat, or how quickly you can stand up and sit down in a chair five times. These exercises are relative to one's body weight, allowing for fair comparisons between individuals of different sizes and strengths.
Becoming a Decade Younger
One of the remarkable aspects of Attia's approach is his aspiration for his patients to reach fitness levels not typical for their age. He aims for a 52-year-old male to have the VO2 max (a key measure of cardiorespiratory fitness) of an elite 42-year-old male.
While this may sound ambitious, it's underpinned by a simple principle: by maintaining high levels of fitness, we can effectively roll back the clock on our biological age, helping us to live not only longer but healthier and more active lives.
Peter Attia's insights into exercise as the ultimate longevity drug offer a fresh and empowering perspective on health and aging. By optimizing our cardiorespiratory fitness, strength, and muscle mass, we can significantly improve our lifespan and wellbeing.
Attia's approach reminds us that it's never too late to start exercising. With its significant impact on our longevity, it's an investment worth making. Whether we're seasoned gym-goers or exercise novices, there's always room for improvement and growth. And as Attia's work shows, with a little effort and commitment, we can make our later years some of the best of our lives.
Remember, the goal is not merely to survive, but to thrive - to add life to years, not just years to life. So gear up, embrace the best longevity drug we have, and embark on your journey towards a healthier, longer life.