Coming up on this episode of the Doctor’s Farmacy.
Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s not about doing it now for some result later, it makes you feel better now. We really can’t afford not to exercise. So start where you are. Build up slowly, even 10 minutes a day of walking can help.
Hey everybody, welcome to the Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman and that’s farmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter. And today, I’m bringing you a health bite to improve your health because taking small steps daily can lead to really big change over time. And today, I’m talking about the science of longevity to help you feel younger and age in reverse. That’s right, age backwards. And it’s based on my new book, Young Forever, which comes out February 21st.
Now, I want you to imagine something. Imagine a drug company, pharmaceutical company release a brand new drug and this is what the drug does. It improves blood pressure, it improves your blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. It helps you lose weight. It dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease and lowers your cholesterol. It improves your mood, your motivation, your cognitive function. It also prevents dementia and makes you stronger, builds muscle and bone health. And if that wasn’t enough, it also reduces the risk of cancer. Many cancers like colon, breast, uterine, and lung. And it also helps you sleep. And if that wasn’t enough, if your sex drive is low or your sex function is waning, it helps with that too by boosting testosterone. And the best part, it’s free and there’s no side effects. Amazing, right?
Now, people would line up around the block of every pharmacy in the country to buy this wonder drug, except you don’t have to imagine such a powerful cure all because it already exists. The only difference is it isn’t in a pill created in a lab somewhere on the planet and no pharmacy can sell it to you, because guess what? It’s exercise. That’s right, moving your body. And it’s one of the best habits you can possibly adopt to live a longer, better life.
Now, I use a cartoon in my lectures that shows a doctor and a patient and the caption reads, the doctor saying to the patient, “Do you have time to exercise an hour a day or be dead 24 hours a day?” So I think it’s not that far from the truth. So let’s talk about what are the biological systems that are improved by exercise. It has to be the right type of exercise, the right dose, the right frequency, and we’ll talk about what that is. But it improves the health of your immune system. It boosts the number of your mitochondria, the powerhouse of your cells. It balances your blood sugar and your insulin, your adrenal glands, your thyroid, your sex hormones. It helps you improve detoxification, your circulation, your lymphatic flow, and even optimizes your microbiome. That’s right, your gut bacteria.
It also does some amazing things about the hallmarks of aging. Now, in my new book, Young Forever, here it is everybody, super excited about it. It’s out February 21st. And in the book, I talk about something called the hallmarks of aging. We’ve covered it on the podcast a little bit. These are the things that go wrong as we age that underlie all disease. If we cured all cancer and heart disease from the face of the planet, we might extend life by five to seven years. But if we address the hallmarks of aging and the causes of the hallmarks of aging, we might get 30 or 40 years of life extension.
And you know what the deal is about exercise? It addresses many of these hallmarks. For example, it increases telomere length. It reduce inflammation. It improves your mitochondrial health. It impacts your nutrient sensing pathways like insulin signaling and mTOR and AMPK and sirtuins, things we’ve talked about. It also improves your epigenome and reverses your biological age.
Now, you might be going, “Well, what do I have to do? Run a marathon every day?” No, you don’t. It doesn’t take a lot of exercise. Even starting with something as simple as 10 minutes a day can add a significant benefit to your health. And if you do more, more vigorous exercise, interval training, strength training, you can extend your health span by leaps and bounds literally. You can stay fit and strong and functioning well into your 80s, 90s, 100s. I just read something pretty interesting that right now there’s about half a million centenarians around the world. And pretty soon by I think 2050, there’ll be about three and a half million people living over a hundred years old, which is pretty amazing. There’s two of the oldest people now around about 115 years old. So many of us will be able to reach that age.
So if you look at what you need to do, combine with diet, exercise is really the most powerful tool for staying healthy and extending your life. My mom used to say whenever she had the urge to exercise, she would lie down till it went away, which I think she got from any young men or some comedian. But she followed that advice unfortunately, and she didn’t exercise despite my hounding her. Of course, parents never listen to their kids. I mean kids, whatever, something like that. Parents never listen to their kids and she ended up being pretty frail and disabled the last decade of her life and not too functioning.
So when you start thinking about how to take this approach of incorporating movement and exercise in your life, you can get really amazing benefits. I’m just going to go through them because they’re just so profound. It actually unlocks the body’s longevity switches, the regenerative and reparative systems that are built into our biology. It activates all the longevity switches that I talk about in the book, particularly the four that have to do with nutrient sensing pathways that are sort of meta to everything else. Insulin signaling, mTOR, which is really important in terms of autophagy and cleaning up your cells, sirtuins, which are important in DNA repair and also AMPK, which helps regulate blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, inflammation and many other things. So it’s pretty darn exciting.
It also activates the body’s antioxidant systems. It improves your cognitive function and your mood. I mean, they found that just walking helps prevent dementia, which is pretty cool. It supports your microbiome. It reduces inflammation, it helps you produce more mitochondria and help them work better and be more efficient and have better function, because mitochondria is where you make energy and as you get older, you lose energy so you want to boost that. It also keeps you strong and functional. I just came back from skiing out in Switzerland and I had a really great time, was privileged to be able to go there and I was amazed. I was just skiing along like I was when I was 30 or 40 and I was probably going a little too fast, but I like to do that. And I felt strong and able to do it, and it was keeping up with people half my age. So I think the body has the capacity it needs to do this. It also makes you happier and improves your mood and even improves your sex life, believe it or not.
So what does the research say? And let’s talk about some of the nitty-gritty about how it works. If you really, maybe you want to know about the science, maybe that’ll motivate you. It probably doesn’t motivate most people, but it kind of gets me all excited. I kind of like that. I’m a little weird, but really, the research is just unbelievable about exercise. When I start to dig into … Obviously, you can look at exercise and anything and search on PubMed and learn about it, but I started to look at exercise and longevity and what it does. So we covered a little bit of this, but I want to sort of expand on it.
It improves your telomeres, which are little caps at the end of your chromosomes that start to shorten as you get older and shorten your life. It actually lengthens your telomeres by exercising. It protects your telomeres. It optimizes all these longevity switches like AMPK, which regulates blood sugar. People say, “Oh, I’m going to take metformin for longevity.” Well, exercise is way better than metformin for regulating AMPK. It also activates sirtuins, which help DNA repair, reduce inflammation and improve your blood sugar control, which are really important. It also improves your cardiovascular and heart health, we all know. It reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes and improves your brain function and cognitive function. It also helps certain types of cancer, as I said. We see the regulation of our biology through exercise being needed through all these mechanisms that have to do with immunity and cancer prevention.
So it’s super great, and of course, it extends your health span and your lifespan. I remember being in Sardinia and I mentioned this guy I think before, but his name is Pietro. He was 95 years old and he was like a shepherd. And he was just running up and down the mountains all day, five miles a day in this really rugged terrain. And he was bolt upright, booming voice, clear eyes, strong and mentally sharp. And I was like, “Wow, this guy’s 95 years old. Most people 95 in America barely can walk across the street or get from their bedroom to the bathroom and here he is running up the mountain.” So we have the ability to do that. And he exercise every day as a shepherd. Not “exercise” but that was his life. Also, it’s incredible for diabetes, for blood sugar control. I mean just walking after dinner is a great way to keep your blood sugar down, helps you become more insulin sensitive.
And very importantly, it helps you build muscle mass and function, because as you get older you lose muscle. It’s called sarcopenia. And that leads to all these hormonal and metabolic changes that accelerate aging and lower testosterone, high cortisol, the stress hormone, higher blood sugar, worsening cholesterol. I mean, just lower growth hormone and increase cortisol. Like I said, it’s really bad news. So building muscle is really important and that’s clearly only done by exercise. So hopefully, listening all this, you realize you can’t afford not to move. My basically philosophy is if you don’t move, you won’t. Literally, you’ll be dead.
So how can you actually incorporate more movement? What can you do without having to drag yourself to the gym? Now, I go to the gym sometimes, but I’d rather play. And I think there’s a lot of options and you can just do simple things. Start with simple things, even five minutes a day. And if you don’t have five minutes a day to do something, there’s something wrong with your life. So you better look at that. So for example, I figured out I couldn’t do 10 pushups when I was 50. So I started, I’m going to do pushups. So I take a shower most days. So I basically would wait for the shower to heat up because I live in a barn and it’s really tall. And it takes a while for that water to get upstairs, and I would do pushups. And I went from able not do 10 to be able to do almost a hundred pushups without stopping. So we can train our bodies, and it’s really simple. Or maybe while your coffee’s brewing, maybe do some stretching and yoga. Walk or bike instead of driving. And many countries they do this.
I just met this guy who was a CEO of a big company and he lived in Switzerland. I mean, he runs a $6 billion company and he rides his bike straight up the hill or I should say the mountain to work 2000 feet elevation every day. And he’s in incredible shape. He’s 53 years old and his VO2 max, which is a measure of fitness, is that of a elite athlete and someone who’s like half of his age. So it’s very impressive. You don’t have to do something like that. But just parking further away in the parking lot, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, the escalator, just simple things to start moving. Also, try a standing desk or a stability ball. If you’re at a desk, you sit on a ball, it kind of helps you move your body and increase your core strength.
I have a friend Mike Roy, who was at Cleveland Clinic with me and he used to have a treadmill desk. Literally, he was on calls and working on his computer and walking all day long, which is impressive. Make your leisure time, active time. So if you’re watching TV or movie, maybe put a stationary bike in your house. I remember I worked in Idaho as a family doc and there was this patient that came in and she lost a hundred pounds. I’m like, “What happened to you?” And she’s like, “Well, I decided instead of sitting in front of the TV and eating all day, I would get a stationary bike and just ride the bike all day instead of eating.” And she did and she lost a hundred pounds. So pretty impressive.
Maybe also you can listen to podcasts and an audiobook or do something like that when you’re exercising or taking a walk and just makes it more fun and motivating. And also, do it with somebody else. As my friend Rick Warren said, everybody needs a buddy. So it’s important that if you maybe are having some trouble getting out there and doing stuff, find somebody else to do it with. It’s much more fun for me to play tennis with somebody else or play basketball or go on a bike with somebody else than do it by myself. So I try to do it with friends and it’s way more fun. Maybe pickleball is the latest craze. Join a pickleball league and go outside and just do fun stuff.
So these are just a few examples of how to incorporate movement and exercise in your life and simple natural ways to do it. And it doesn’t matter what you do, it just matters that you do it. So according to the science and particularly the science of longevity that I talk about in my book Young Forever, go get a copy please. It’s really amazing. I like it a lot. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve ever written. Maybe the favorite because I think I’m obviously more interested in this because I’m getting older. It’s such an essential part of longevity and of health in general and just of enjoying life. It’s not about doing it now for some result later. It makes you feel better now. And we really can’t afford not to exercise. So start where you are. Build up slowly, even 10 minutes a day of walking can help. Start strength training, weight resistance training, whatever you want. Body weights, bands. I use bands mostly because I travel with them.
Do more movement throughout the day. Get up, walk around, do stuff. And I write a lot about what kinds of exercise, how much exercise, how to optimize it in the least amount of time. I cover all that in my book, Young Forever, which is coming out a few weeks. So I’m excited about this. So if you want to learn more about the benefits of exercise, how to do it, I want you to go get a copy of my new book today, Young Forever. Go to youngforeverbook.com and there’s all these bonuses that come with it. I encourage you to get it and hope you enjoy it. And that’s it for today’s health bite. Be sure to share it with your friends and family and we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Farmacy.
Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.