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Another Take: Can exercise really help you live longer?

Just a few short weeks ago our host Greta Blackburn held one of her fabulous FITCAMP events in Cancun, Mexico.  If you missed it, you missed a great one!

At that event several presenters, including top Scientist Bill Andrews — co-discoverer of the HTERT gene and leading scientist at Sierra Sciences LLC — and top trainer Phil Campbell (whose book  “Ready Set Go Synergy Fitness” revolutionized the field of high intensity interval training over a decade ago) both gave phenomenal presentations on the how’s and why’s of everything from sprint training to ultra-running.

A recurring theme emerged: exercise is not only good for you in terms of how you look and how you feel but it also is good for longevity, especially for telomere length.

Remember the telomeres are those biological time clocks AND health clocks that live at the end of your chromosomes.  Every time your cells divide to make a new set of cells the time clock ticks and your absolute life span gets shorter.

But a study in well-conditioned German middle distance runners whose average age was about 45 showed you can indeed slow down those time clocks with exercise.

Researchers found that at age 25 most everyone had a free pass which equated to long telomeres although there were some outliers who had already started to age faster probably from too much partying!

But in the folks who did not exercise at all the telomere length shortened dramatically over the next 2 decades.  In the runners, however, there was almost no distinguishable difference between telomere length at 25 and at 45.

Now a couple of things are important here.  These runners were high level former collegiate athletes in most cases.  They had been running steadily for 2 decades and were putting in over 40 miles a week.  That is lot of miles for most people.

Also most high level runners don’t just run they strength train and do interval training programs similar to Phil Campbell’s Sprint 8 as their speed work.

So what is it about this kind of training that helps keep telomeres long?

Well most like it has to do with the body’s ability to handle oxidative stress.  Runners tend to develop the mechanisms needed to handle the increased oxidative load of exercise to a high degree.

Even ultra-runners whose oxidative stress levels go through the roof in the first 24 hours after a long race return to baseline soon after.

We Telonauts are convinced that the best exercise is one that develops the ability to handle free radical oxidative stress without actually putting all that much long term oxidative stress on the body.  That is why we favor Phil Campbell’s Sprint 8 programs as detailed in his book  “Ready Set Go Synergy Fitness” as well as our book “The Immortality Edge” which is coming out in January 2011.

Using these programs you can really crank up you oxidative capacity (as measured by VO2 max and lactate threshold for you exercise buffs) without having a lot of damaging stuff hanging around for days on end.

Another study done in Canada showed you could reverse years of exercise neglect with just a year of high intensity training for a total of 9 hours a week and reverse the age related decline in your functional lung capacity by up to twelve years.

Here’s a quick note on weight lifting. We think strength training is absolutely essential for balanced physical being.  There is only one tiny study in weight lifters specifically power lifters.  In this group the average telomere length and the shortest telomere lengths both were longer than in non-weight trained individuals suggesting at the very least that weight lifting may be good for your telomeres as well.

So what should you do?

Train hard and fast at least some of the time and take those anti-oxidants, specifically fish oil, co Q 10, Carnosine, Vitamin D and a good multivite to keep those free radicals at bay.

Odds are you’ll live a longer and healthier life because of it. And make sure you get a copy of Phil Campbell’s great book “Ready Set Go Synergy Fitness” and watch for our book “The Immortality Edge” coming soon.

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