For the past few weeks, we have been talking about living your best year ever, through our four-part philosophy of “Think Right, Eat Right, Move Right, Live Right.” If you’ve read these articles, though, you probably noticed that I’m not just talking about one good year; I’m setting you up for success for the rest of your life. And if we’re doing it right, a longer life than we would have had otherwise.
Aging Is A Process
When we think about the aging process, there are a couple of processes working in our cells that drive or slow down aging:
- One is that the telomeres, or microscopic strands on the end a DNA chain, lengthen or shorten, and they are a tell-tale sign of whether we are moving toward longevity or premature aging.
- The other is the rate of cells dying. When cells in an area of your body begin dying at an accelerated level, you will notice the process of death happening in that area – disease sets in, your skin and hair dry out, and so on. The outward signs that we associate with aging are actually evidence of cell death.
Slowing The Process
There are things we can do to slow, stop, or even reverse this trend. Last week, we talked about eating right and giving our cells the proper nutrients with which to build healthy new cells. This week, I want to talk about a process called, “autophagy,” where your cells take apart sick and dying cells, recycle the useful parts, and eliminate the waste materials.
It’s similar to the concept of antioxidants, which are cells that locate and eliminate damaged cells throughout your body (specifically the ones that have lost electrons through oxidative stress). Those broken cells are called “free radicals,” and they can damage other cells as they bounce helplessly around your body. Antioxidants, like those found in some fruit and vegetable juices, are great for sweeping out the debris in your body.
How Can I Have Some Of This Autophagy?
In Dr. Steven Gundry’s terrific book, “Longevity Paradox,” he explains how you can stimulate autophagy in your life. If you haven’t picked up this book yet, I strongly encourage you to get it here. There is no time like the present to get your future in order.
The key, surprisingly, is stress.
Now, wait! Stress is bad, right? Haven’t we said dozens of times here that stress kills people?
Yes and no.
We Actually NEED Some Stress
There is a certain amount of stress that every living creature must have operating in their life to even function. If you literally had no stress at all, you would begin to die. The question is always, “how much?”
- How much stress is enough for a human to function in a healthy way?
- Does a certain amount of stress help drive champions to top performance?
- At what point does stress begin to damage your organs over time?
- How much stress does it take to kill a person?
We don’t want to get to those higher levels of stress, we just want to create enough stress (or maybe a better word here is “resistance” to cause our muscles and organs to press just a little bit harder. We talk about resistance training in the gym, where we are putting our muscles through a little extra exertion to increase our gains.
Another author and trainer I enjoy reading is Phil Maffetone. In his great book (which I also recommend for your wellness library at home), “The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing,” he puts it this way:
“Improvements from training are, to a great degree, the result of stress. We apply sufficient physical, chemical, and mental stress to the body, and it develops endurance as a result, leading to better performance. This is an example of good stress. But apply a little more of those same stresses or combine them with other stress, and benefits can quickly disappear—an example of bad stress. In sports, bad or excess stress often leads to overtraining.
Where Is The Balance?
There is a balancing point in this pursuit of stress, where there is just enough to create some positive gains, but any more would have a negative effect on the body. People with big Latin vocabularies call this, “hormesis.”
Here is how Dr. Gundry puts it:
“Exercise is another perfect example of hormesis—limited stress you put on your body to make yourself stronger. Like other examples of hormetic stressors such as calorie restriction, exercise stimulates autophagy, the recycling of old, worn-out cellular components.”
It’s An Easy Excuse
Now, I know how people think about exercise, because I have been fighting this fight with people for 25 years. Most people vastly over-estimate how much exercise they need, and they use that sense of overwhelm as their excuse not to do any.
It doesn’t take a ton of time of effort to stay fit. Most people can manage on as little as three 45-minute moderate aerobic workouts per week. That’s all. And if you follow my “Move Right Monday” video series, you will be shocked at how easy it is to get tremendous results. No, you won’t look like Mr. Universe, but that’s really not something for most of us to aspire to anyway.
They fact is, it’s SUPER important to be fit, not just to enjoy maximum strength, stability, mobility, and motor control, but to live a longer life. This is especially true for my patients and friends with stressful lives. Dr. Gundry shares, “If you have a high-stress life, exercise is not just good for you. It’s essential. It protects you from stress-shortened telomeres.”
Moving right is not just a matter of life and death, it’s a matter of long life and early death.
Want To Control Your Life? Start With Your Breath
When we talk about self-discipline and self-control, most people immediately start thinking about fasting. Withholding food from yourself for periods of time is an important discipline with huge health benefits, but I want to go deeper.
Can you control your breathing?
We breathe without thinking thousands of times a day. Our bodies need air so badly that we were designed to do it involuntarily, so that it wouldn’t consume too much of our attention. If you were to go more than a few minutes without breathing, you would pass out, and eventually, your brain, lungs, and heart would begin shutting down.
If It’s That Important…
So, why on earth would we get ourselves into the discipline of stopping our breathing?
Dr. Gundry explains:
“Becoming aware of our breathing and taking control of it when we need to is one of the most powerful ways to take control of ourselves, especially when we’re afraid… Of course, people who will not make the effort to control how they breathe have little hope of taking control of larger things. If you won’t exercise enough discipline to slightly alter just once in a while the thing that you do thousands of times a day, then you will not have the discipline to change the course of your life.
But if you do learn to control your breathing, you will have gained experience in how to control what you can control. If you do learn to bring awareness to how you breathe, you are likely to bring awareness to how you live.”
“Like everything else in life, there is such a thing as too much when it comes to exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise such as running. Our ancestors ran only when they needed to avoid becoming someone else’s meal, but somehow we have gotten the idea from faulty calorie math and a misunderstanding of how metabolism actually works that we need to run for several miles at a time or spin, step, or aerobicize for hours on end, all in the name of being healthy.”
Moderation and Discipline Go Hand In Hand
Of course, self-discipline isn’t a new idea. Aristotle put it this way 2,500 years ago:
“For both excessive and insufficient exercise destroy one’s strength, and both eating and drinking too much or too little destroy health, whereas the right quantity produces, increases or preserves it. So it is the same with temperance, courage and the other virtues. This much then, is clear: in all our conduct it is the mean [balance or average] that is to be commended.”
One thing I always encourage my patients and friends with is that moderation is an important key to wellness. Too much of any good thing quickly becomes a bad thing. The same is true of exercise. That’s why my “Move Right Monday” exercises are short and simple. It’s doesn’t take much to get great results. I would rather see you do five minutes of exercise every day than two hours of exercise whenever you can make time for it. There is a greater benefit to consistency than to quantity. That bring us back to the power of self-discipline.
As we cultivate self-disciplined lives, we will find that stay out of extremes, we enjoy more peace, a greater sense of overall wellness, and longer life.
Let’s Talk More About This Over Dinner
I hope you’ll join us in a couple of weeks when we gather again for another Fundamental Foods dinner. We’ll meet here at my office behind the YMCA on Pine Ridge Road in Naples. I’m getting my notes together for that presentation and I know you’re going to enjoy it. Plus, we’ve really begun to develop into a great group of friends who enjoy reconnecting over dinner and a little teaching. I hope you’ll join us. We’ll post the specifics on our Facebook page in the next few days.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas