It’s one of the Top 5 health staples that we’ve covered often on this podcast, but Dr. Peter Attia[i], Canadian-American physician, known for his medical practice that focuses on the science of longevity, says that “exercise might be the most potent “drug” we have for extending the quality and perhaps quantity of our years of life.”
On this episode we will cover:
✔ What the current research says for improving fitness, longevity and overall health.
✔ Look at the workouts from Dr. Peter Attia and Dr. Andrew Huberman, who dive deep into this topic on their recent podcast episodes.
✔ Compare their workouts to mine, and look for gaps using the most current research to see if we can all improve our workout routines with longevity in mind.
✔ Use Attia's Rule in this process.
Welcome back to The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast where we bridge the gap between theory and practice, with strategies, tools and ideas we can all use immediately, applied to the most current brain research to heighten productivity in our schools, sports environments and modern workplaces. I’m Andrea Samadi and launched this podcast to share how important an understanding of our brain is for our everyday life and results. Like you, I’m interested in learning and applying the research, to our everyday life.
On today’s episode, I want to share the research I saw recently to improve fitness, longevity and overall health, with Dr. Peter Attia’s work who was recently featured on Dr. Andrew Huberman’s podcast. Dr. Attia, has a fascinating origin story, as he started his career as a cardiac surgeon, and then found he had a heart condition, so he began to dive into the research to see how he could improve the quality of his own life. On today’s episode #252, and this week’s Brain Fact Friday, we will take Dr. Attia’s advice, look at what he does himself, and what he recommends for others he trains, compare it to how others, like Dr. Huberman are training, and then how I’ve been training. I’m hoping we will find areas to tweak or improve, with Dr. Attia’s research in mind, that focuses on longevity and overall improvements in health and fitness. The overall goal with this episode is to have all of us use the research to inform our current exercise program, uncover our gaps, and see if there are any ways that we can improve what we are doing, with longevity research in mind.
I wanted to cover this topic, as I’m always looking to improve what I’m doing, but find that when there’s so much to do, or so many different exercise or nutrition plans to follow, I notice I don’t do anything new at all, and just do the same thing, which changes nothing. The point of this episode is to look at moving our needle even just a little bit, and see if there is something we can all do, even if it’s a small tweak, to build a better 2.0 version of ourselves, to make this year our best year ever, or at least give us a running start at 2023.
Biohack Tip Advice
For this episode, I plan on following Attia’s Rule[ii] which Dr. Huberman coined that basically addresses the ton of exercise and nutrition advice flying around out in the world. This rule says “don’t quibble about nutrition or supplementation until you’ve dialed in your own exercise/strength protocol,” and I wouldn’t even consider writing this episode, if I wasn’t putting my own health first, using Attia’s Rule as a guide.
Dr. Attia says that nutrition and health arguments are a waste of your time until you’ve completed a certain set of criteria. He says don’t bother unless you can:
Dead hang for a minute
Wall sit for two minutes
Have a VO2 max of at least 75th percentile for your age group.
Before writing this episode, I wanted to be sure that I qualified for Attia’s Rule. Here’s how I fared with his criteria.
Dead Hang[iii]: I had to find a park down the street from my house to try a dead hang, as I’ve never done one before. In Canada, I remember doing fitness testing for running in school, but I don’t remember ever having to hang from a bar to see how long we could do this. When I got to park I scared away some kids who were on the bars to do this activity. I set my timer for one minute, closed my eyes, and had to pretend if I let go, I’d fall from a skyscraper or something (maybe why they are called dead hangs) so that I could keep going, and hit that one minute mark. Dead hangs are as difficult as they sound, and I can see how practicing this skill would increase overall body strength. I felt every muscle in my body shake as I got closer to the end. I did complete this task, but after raving about how I could do this one minute challenge that night at dinner, my kids who both train every night in competitive gymnastics started listing all the kids at their gym who can dead hang for more than 7 minutes! I’m just going to stick to improving my one minute hang one second at a time.
Wall Sit[iv]: This one was easy for me, even with one injured quad. Was able to sit against a wall at a 90-degree angle for 2 minutes, and switch weight away from the injured leg when needed and completed this criteria.
I’ve been watching this number using my IPhone in the Activity App. If you are exercising, doing cardio, this number should show up under Trends. If you are not doing enough cardio to grab this data point, you will see “needs more data” next to this item, so you just need to keep training and watching this number.
My VO2 Max currently sits at 37, which is considered Superior for my age (51) and in the top percentile. This is a very important bio marker to track for health and longevity, and we’ll cover why a bit later in this episode.
So, I completed the criteria for Attia’s Rule, and continued the research for this episode.
What About YOU?
If you are measuring your workouts—have you ever wondered
How your workouts fare compared to what the longevity research says?
Have you wondered if your workouts are as effective as they could be?
Are you reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself?
What/how can you improve?
While by no means do I consider myself an expert in this area, I’m just someone who puts a high value on health and have been measuring the data with my workouts for the past 2 years. While tracking my results, I see the same thing every month, so I know it’s time to look at what I’m doing to see where I can improve what I’m seeing. Every week I see “Strain was overreaching, sleep fell short.”
Before we analyze my data, I wanted to look at Dr. Attia’s exercise regimen that he’s built specifically for optimizing health and longevity. You can learn more about his programs on his website, but here’s a quick overview of how he trains.
His workouts are simple and straightforward (it’s the research that’s intense and a bit more complex). His workouts consist of:
4 sessions/week cardio (45 min sessions) low intensity zone 2 (I’ve put a heart rate chart in the show notes that shows Zone 2 is 60-70% of your max heart rate) or exercising where you can carry on a conversation with someone else. He defines zone 2 more in depth by saying “it’s the highest metabolic output or work that you can sustain (like running fast) while keeping lactate”[vii] below a certain level. This is where he says the most time should be spent. (3 hours)
one session of vo2 max training a week higher intensity (40-60 min) high intensity Zone 5 training.
4 strength sessions/week (60 x4) 4 hours
8 hours total (7-9 hours is advised for endurance training).
This is simple and easy to understand.
I also thought I would list Dr. Andrew Huberman’s suggestion for what he does for his workouts, using science to optimize his physical health to compare.
Dr. Huberman’s fitness protocols are similar, just laid out more specifically:
Sunday: Long endurance workout
Monday: Leg resistance/strength training
Tuesday: Heat/Cold exposure for recovery
Wednesday: Torso/neck resistance training
Thursday: Moderate intensity cardio
Friday: High intensity cardio (max heart rate) Like Attia’s Zone 5 High Intensity
Saturday: Arms, calves, neck training
You can listen to Dr. Andrew Huberman’s entire episode[viii] where he breaks this down his fitness protocols to the most clear and granular level to optimize health and longevity, referencing Dr. Attia’s research[ix], but for this episode today, I wanted to give a snapshot of what longevity workouts look like (connecting the research) so we can all see if there’s anything we can do to tweak or improve what we are doing.
What does the research say?
This is where it gets interesting. I’m sure we’ve all heard of different workout routines, and know that if we’ve seen a trainer that we’ve got to combine cardio with strength training. Then we can add in some of the recent discoveries about heat and cold exposure for recovery, but what exactly does the research say we should know to improve our longevity?
Brain Fact Friday
Which brings us to this week’s Brain Fact Friday.
We opened this episode with a quote from Dr. Attia that we’ve all heard before, that said “exercise might be the most potent “drug” we have for extending the quality and perhaps quantity of our years of life” but did you know that “exercise reduces the risk for all-cause mortality? (or death from all causes)” (Dr. Peter Attia).
Research from the National Institute of Health found that, compared with taking 4,000 steps per day, a number considered to be low for adults, taking 8,000 steps per day was associated with a 51% lower risk for all-cause mortality (or death from all causes)[x]. Taking 12,000 steps per day was associated with a 65% lower risk compared with taking 4,000 steps.
What caught my attention was when Dr. Attia put all of the research into perspective.
Exercise has a huge impact on disease and death from all causes (all-cause mortality).
We know it does something to reduce aging, and improve longevity right down to the ends of our telomeres.
We know exercise is like a drug, and hormones are released that provide neurogenesis, or create new brain cells. (BDNF).
But Did You Know:
“Smoking is approximately a 40% increase in the risk of ACM (which means at a given time, there’s a 40% chance that you will die compared to a non-smoker).”[xi] (Dr. Attia)
High Blood Pressure has a 20-25% increase in all-cause mortality?
Type 2 diabetes has a 25% increase in all-cause mortality?
These numbers are shocking, especially if you or someone you love, suffers from chronic disease. It caught my attention especially when high blood pressure was not far off from ACM of a smoker, and made me stop in my tracks to think “what can we do to improve these numbers?”
What Can We Do?
Dr. Attia suggested the answer lies with comparing low to high achievers and the findings are significant.
Did you know that “low muscle mass people compared to high mass people have a 200% increase in all-cause mortality (or dying of any cause) as they age?” (Dr. Attia) who adds that “it’s less about the muscle mass but the high association with strength.”
“It’s a 250% greater risk if you have low strength to high strength.” (Dr. Attia)
So the answer, (from the research) is to prioritize strength training, and get stronger, while keeping an eye on the 4 pillars of exercise that Dr. Attia mentions (stability, strength, aerobic and anaerobic training).
Dr. Attia goes on to say that “if you look at cardiorespiratory fitness, it’s even more profound.”
“For the bottom 25% in terms of V02 Max (for your age and sex) compared to people at the top (elite) for a given age, there’s a 400% difference in all-cause mortality.” (Dr. Attia) which he says “is the single most strongest association” he’s ever seen for any modifiable behavior.
With this research in mind, I know I want to keep doing cardiovascular exercises to keep my VO2 Max in the elite/superior group for my age.
What do I do?
You can see my September workout results broken down into the framework Dr. Attia suggests for longevity.
Most time spent on aerobic exercise:
1.5 hour hikes daily, mostly zone 3. (STRAIN 15-17)
High Intensity Training usually Tuesday/Fridays where you see strain is highest (18-20). 2 hours/twice/week= 4 hours
STABILITY: Have been using Joshua Gillis’s NeuroFuctional Training Program from EPISODE #238[xii] that Centers the Mind-Body Connection to Release Our Highest Potential. I’ve also found this program difficult to sustain. The exercises help strengthen parts of my body I don’t use often, and I notice it’s very challenging. 12 minutes a couple times/week.
STRENGTH: Weight training 4x week 30 min using a system created by Vince Sant, called Vshred.[xiii] I’m not an affiliate of this program, but have used this system since 2019.
****STRENGTH IS THE AREA I WILL LEAVE OUT WHEN BUSY. According to the research, this is a huge mistake.
****Looking at the research, can you find your gaps, or areas that you would like to improve?
REVIEW AND CONCLUSION This Week’s Brain Fact Friday:
Did you know that “low muscle mass people to high mass people have a 200% increase in all-cause mortality as they age?” (Dr. Attia) who adds that “it’s less about the muscle mass but the high association with strength.”
“It’s a 250% greater risk (of all-cause mortality) if you have low strength to high strength” so cutting out my strength training is not something I will do moving forward. I’ve been following Monica[xiv], whose a phenomenal trainer on physical and mental fitness for new ideas for strength and peak performance training.
IMPROVING WORKOUTS WITH LONGEVITY RESEARCH IN MIND?
While I do want to keep my VO2 max in the elite or superior range for my age, I can definitely lower the intensity of my daily hikes that are pushing me to see the daily message “strain too high, not enough sleep” as sleep is required to repair the body from high strain days.
Using the research, I plan to spend more time on easier, low intensity cardio, strength training and with a bit of high intensity training added in, and I’ll keep the 4 pillar framework that Dr. Attia created in mind for longevity training to include Aerobic, Anaerobic, Strength and Stability Training.
I’d love to know if there was anything in this episode that helped you to tweak your weekly exercise routine, with health and longevity in mind. Please do visit the resources and references in the show notes if you would like to go deeper into the research we’ve covered today.
I’ll see you next week with a returning guest, who amazes me with his ability to complete the books he is writing. Have a good weekend.