Tag Archives: Longevity

What Is the Ideal Amount of Exercise?

Above: Me sucking wind after a tough workout.

We often hear what the minimum amount of exercise we need is, but what amount of exercise is actually optimal? At what point have we reaped all the benefits exercise has to offer, and possibly even gone over the edge into damaging overtraining?

With the largest snowstorm in years lashing my apartment today, I thought it was as good a time as any to try to find an answer.

The federal government recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. This establishes a useful lower bound we definitely shouldn’t dip below, but a highly cited study in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that you can get further longevity benefits by exercising a lot more:

the longevity benefit threshold appears to be approximately 3 to 5 times the recommended physical activity minimum

So, in order to be sure to get the maximum longevity benefit, you need to do five times the minimum recommended level of exercise. 5x the minimum recommended level would be 1 hour 47 minutes of moderate activity daily or 54 minutes of vigorous activity daily.

Furthermore, the study found no danger from exercising even more than what it takes to get the full longevity benefit:

there does not appear to be an elevated mortality risk with LTPA [leisure time physical activity] levels as high as 10 or more times the recommended minimum.

Looking at the differences between moderate and vigorous activity, I also wondered if one is better than the other. There doesn’t seem to be solid data to say that either moderate or vigorous activity is superior from a health perspective:

comprehensive reviews of the literature on physical activity and mortality report that overall volume of physical activity is associated with lower mortality risk but report mixed findings on the relative contributions of moderate- vs vigorous-intensity activities

So am I doing enough? Looking at the pedometer app on my phone, I’ve averaged 2.75 hours per day of walking (moderate intensity exercise) over the past year. I also do about 3-4 hours a week of vigorous exercise (yoga and strength training, mostly), so about 30 min daily.

So, I seem to be comfortably above the level needed to get the maximum longevity benefit. That said, counterintuitively, I sometimes find my mood is a little lower on days I don’t do vigorous activity. (You think you’d be happy for a rest day, but maybe not!) Just because I’m at the maximum amount of exercise to produce longevity benefits doesn’t mean that more exercise might not produce other benefits in terms of mental health, athletic ability, appearance, etc.

Since there appears to be no harm from even very high levels of activity, I may add another vigorous workout (likely yoga or calistenics) to my routine some weeks, depending on my schedule and desires at the time.

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New Research Identifies the Key Causes of Aging

Dr. Jeremy Walston, Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University and co-author of the study

I just read an interesting new study identifying the biggest causes of aging. The authors gathered a panel of leading experts on health and aging and asked them what the biggest risk factors are for failing health as the years go by. Here’s what they found:

Experts identified 13 factors predisposing to or clinically manifesting AACD [accelerated aging and cellular decline]. Among these, chronic diseases, obesity, and unfavorable genetic background were considered as the most important.

Early detection of accelerated aging and cellular decline (AACD): A
consensus statement

None of the risk factors will shock you, but seeing all the key risks laid out in order of importance can really help guide our decision making:

One risk stood out above all:

smoking was consistently viewed as the most prominent risk factor

So if you’re smoking, definitely consider quitting! I recently shared how I put down the cigarettes 6 years ago. Hopefully my experience can help.

These risks mostly boil down to either what you put into your body or what you do with your body. Here’s how I try to mitigate these risks:

  • Sleeping 8-9 hours a night
  • Exercising at least 4 times a week, in addition to walking at least 4 miles every day
  • Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and avoiding too many processed foods
  • Meditating most days, generally for 10-20 minutes

Although I did, incongruously, read this article while eating some potato chips, so there’s room for improvement! 🙂 Have a great weekend everyone!

How I Quit Smoking

Six years ago, I did something people say is almost impossible. I quit smoking, and I haven’t touched tobacco since.

Here’s a secret: it’s very, very possible.

I smoked about a pack a day of cigarettes for over 7 years, and as I was about to get married, I thought about how I had to prioritize my health now that someone else would be depending on me. What’s more, I knew all the disastrous health impacts, and wanted to quit eventually anyhow. But I had always pushed that date conveniently into the future.

Until January 20, 2015. That was the quit date I set for myself. In the two weeks prior to quitting, I reduced my consumption from about a pack a day (20 cigarettes) to 10. I maintained that for a week, and found it fairly easy. This was based on the concept of drug tapering, which I learned about working in medical organizations as a software consultant. I had tried Chantix in the past, a prescription drug designed to help you quit smoking, but I found the taper more effective.

A week later (January 13), I reduced that to five cigarettes a day. That’s when things got interesting. I experienced a degree of nicotine withdrawal and cravings, but I could still have a few cigarettes per day, which helped salve the wound.

When January 20 came along, I was actually looking forward to quitting. I had already gone through a lot of the withdrawal. And I was looking forward to the benefits of not having to go outside in the cold to smoke and not incinerating money, among others.

I remember tossing away that final cigarette, a Camel Turkish Gold, on a cold day and heading back upstairs. I was done. And although I expected to feel dread, I actually felt glad, if a little whistful.

Within 3 days, I felt my brain and body functioning better. It felt like oxygen was actually hitting my system for the first time in years! I felt exhilaration and energy, which is something not many people mention when quitting smoking. If you can make it through those first 3 days, there’s likely a big payoff waiting.

Nearly 6 years later, I’m able to do things I could never have done before. When I sprint up stairs or hike up a mountain or do a hardcore strength training session, I think to myself that my lungs could’ve never withstood this before. I’m also not a slave to a habit that has me going outside every few minutes in any weather, desperately counting the hours until I can get off an airplane, and scurrying to convenience stores for the next fix.

The reality is, if you are ready to quit, and you make a plan and stick to it, it’s really not that hard. Imagine yourself sitting on the couch all day watching TV, gut sticking out, eating Doritos and cake. If you’re quitting smoking, and you didn’t smoke that day, that day was a 100%, unqualified success! How often can you say that about such an unproductive day? You see, the bar is set very low: just don’t do this one thing.

On the 20th, I plan to take myself out for a nice dinner. Whatever it costs will be a fraction of what cigarettes would have. And more importantly, I have a longer and healthier life to look forward to.