The Hidden Benefit of Exercise You May Be Totally Missing

A few weeks ago I wandered back to our local running club. I hadn’t been there in over 5 years mainly because I no longer consider running the main stay of my fitness routine. I still do it, just not the excess I used to (125km).

It was a lot of fun to see some old friends again. For the most part I did not see any major changes in the way they looked except there was a direct correlation between the number of miles they routinely run and how old they look.

Frankly the ones who ran long long distance regularly looked MUCH older than those who didn’t!

I can guarantee you they were not taking fish oil.

Now let me say something clearly. I DO think aerobic exercise is very important. For the most part all of the anti-aging benefits that are seen with exercise are seen with aerobic activities like running, aerobic machines etc.

But it should also be stated that your body needs to produce power and has an often hidden side of its athleticism. Anaerobic performance- also known as explosive and/or interval training constitutes at least half of your capabilities.

Because most exercise physiologists are aerobes (runners and cyclists) and because anaerobic benefits are harder to measure using standardized blood tests, this “other half” of you gets short stick.

Now you may be wondering, “When is he going to get to the fish oil stuff- he always does!”

You are right!

A recent study in the International Journal of Fitness showed that aerobic endurance athletes (soccer players), improved their anaerobic fitness levels over controls who did not take fish oil supplements.

Add this to the well-known aerobic and recovery benefits of Omega 3’s and you have yet another reason to remember to take your fish oil!

Now here is a little confession from me to you.

I stopped “playing sports” many years ago. For the past 2 decades my time has been dedicated to getting the most anti-aging and regenerative benefits I can from EVERYTHING I do. Now this may sound boring to you, but it’s not. I truly enjoy the exercise routines I do and the anti-aging benefits they give me.

But aerobic or anaerobic, I could not maintain them in the face of my busy schedule, fraught with traveling and long hours of research without fish oil.

It’s great to see the other side of fitness and to see that it is beginning to move out of the gym and into the lab. It’s also great to see how much Omega 3’s contribute to maintaining all sides of our physical ability.

Here’s to speed, power and endurance getting better every year!


Strength Vs. Endurance- Which is Better?!

Ok taking a break from the nutrition and supplements to give you some free advice on your workouts.

I am not sure if you’ve noticed how the exercise prescription keeps evolving but it kinda parallels the drug recommendations e.g. more and more and more!

The current recommendation is for 50 minutes 5 X a week which effectively puts it out of the range of most of the population! Not to say that this recommendation is not to be followed if possible, but I can tell you that unless you are retired its not going to be easy for you to do this.

This recommendation also does not take into account recovery factors. If you are 80 and walking at 2 miles per hour for an hour is enough to get your heart rate to 70+ % of where it should be, the wear and tear on your body is going to be a lot less than if you are 35 and need to run 7 miles an hour for an hour.

While its safe to say at 80 your recovery demands are going to still be there its quite different from the joint trauma point of view.

What happens if you do 2 really hard workouts a week for strength and 2 for endurance- does that count?!

The answer is yes it does.

As a matter of fact rather than slavishly following the popular 10,000 steps a day rule, the arbitrary but popular recommendation of several internet gurus I would suggest you monitor your performance. If you are slowly but surely improving in your capacity to exercise- both in strength and endurance, you get “credit” and it counts!

Now, a lot of people ask about the so called “strength endurance” routines which often breaks down into some kind of circuit exercise ala PX 90, Ruthless etc etc.

I think these are great compromises and work well if weight loss is your main goal. I love the motion and movement based activities and the potential stretch benefits they give. Since we move as beings these strike me as a nice natural compromise.

But understand you will get neither as strong nor as cardiovascularly fit as with dedicated workouts.

In spite of what some of the still circulating literature suggests, you will not run faster 10K’s than 10 K runners who train in that distance by doing a circuit for 6 weeks.

You may look better and feel better than those very same runners but trust me you will not be running faster than they are or even than you would if you trained for this type of thing.

So once again it all boils down to my now famous “It Depends” answer to the what is the best form of exercise.

We should add “for you” at the end of the sentence. Train for what YOU want!

There is no question in my mind that strength and flexibility is the most useful thing for us as we age.

I cannot help but think of my friend and mentor Matt Furey.

Well into his 50’s Matt remains fast powerful and flexible and of course youthful. Combat Conditioning for instance is NOT yesterday’s news even though its over 10 years old now. This type of exercise will spank you if you are not prepared for it. If you haven’t seen what Matt is up to these days go have a look.

I will also mention to you that I am working on some specific programs with my friend and strength master Kyle Newell so stay tuned for a January launch date on that.

In the meantime remember: your body will adapt to what you give it in graduated routine fashion.

Lately I have been running longer and longer distances again with an eye towards another Canadian Death Race when I turn 60 soon. This time around I have given myself several years instead of a few months like I did when I turned 50!

That is the difference a decade can make and I respect and acknowledge the need for more recovery and better soft tissue management.

After all I want to be strong potent and still running at 90!

How about you?

Start with what you want from your body and if it’s a compromise, then that is fine. Just make a decision and stick to it until you feel your results are as good as you can get, then and only then should your change up your routine.



Does HIIT Hit the Mark for Aging?!

High Intensity Interval Training has been the subject of much research and debate over the past decade or so.  (I will abbreviate it as HIIT from now on).

I have to credit my friend Phil Campbell for bringing back the concept to modern eyes a decade or more ago with his books Ready Set Go!The Sprint 8 Protocol, and most recently How to Increase Growth Hormone Naturally– all available on Amazon.  There is even a cameo appearance by yours truly in the second book listed above.  They are great resources and good reads and if you don’t have them I’d suggest you visit Amazon or your local book seller and pick up a copy of any or all of them!

HIIT was actually originated in Hitler’s Germany in preparation for the 1936 Olympics.  It is credited to Hans Reindell a physiologist and Woldemar Gersheler a coach. While it did not stop Jesse Owens from shaming the Reich, it did get German athletes a lot of 2nd and 3rd place finishes.

The history got lost in post war translation and it simply became known as “wind sprints” when I was back in junior high. WE hated it then because it made you feel, well, like you’d want to vomit. Still there is no denying it was the fastest and most effective way to build “wind” or aerobic capacity.

Phil made it popular again and like most neo pioneers has never gotten much credit for it.  Since Phil reintroduced it, it has made the rounds for all kinds of things.  The first bash was back in the late 90’s when it was the darling of all trainers for the sole purpose of weight loss.  All kinds or exorbitant amounts of calorie burn were being ascribed to it and many books and articles touted “after burn”*, the immediate metabolic consequences of HIIT, as burning hundreds and hundreds of extra calories per day.

Then reality and measurement set in and it was found that realistically you could burn about 100 extra calories on the days that you performed your HIIT intervals. People started to notice that the athletes featured in the “Get Ripped with Interval Training” Videos were all in their early 20’s and high level to begin with. Can you say “Tabata”?!

Another predictable and funny thing started to happen. Middle aged and older people desperately trying to combat Father Time with HIIT started doing it and getting injured. Hint: If you have not sprinted in 30 years get Phil’s books and learn to do it the right way- the INJURY FREE way!  In 2007 I adopted a program of deep water interval training and posted some YouTube videos on it.  Now there is a whole book on that very topic.  Go figure!

For my money that is the best way to do regular interval training although if your body can tolerate it sprinting at the track is a lot of fun.  Just remember you may be a kid at heart but if you’ve got some miles on your odometer like I do, take it easy at first.

The good news is you can use your favorite fitness device like the elliptical or mine, the Airdyne bike, to get the cardio part of the workout without the joint tendon and ligament trauma! You can also do any one of a number of HIIT circuits that have become so popular these days like Insanity, Ruthless and any number of macho titles that will challenge your man and womanhood.

Injury potential aside, a new study at the prestigious Mayo clinic is the latest to look at HIIT in an area where it’s found a new home- combatting aging.

In addition to increasing the capacity of the heart, and the growth of muscle (can you say Increase Growth Hormone like Phil teaches us?!) and insulin sensitivity, HIIT delivers results in a relatively fast way.  In as little as 6 workouts that total less than 30 minutes of exercise and rest you will begin to feel the effects as your formerly difficult workouts get easier.

From the anti-aging standpoint, HIIT seems to address the dual problems of sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) and dynopenia (loss of strength) by increasing the number of mitochondria in your muscle cells.

Recall I have called mitochondria the “cellular powerhouses” a term that has now become wide spread. They basically act like a carburetor or fuel injector and take oxygen and fuel (in this case fat) and burn it to make energy for movement and all kinds of other vital things!

Increasing mitochondrial density is definitely a reversal of the aging trend because as we get older we tend to lose more and more mitochondria.

Now for the real anti-aging question!

What does HIIT do to telomeres?

Answer: no one knows yet.  I am certain some genius researcher will either read this blog or decide on their own that it is time to take this ever-popular exercise form and subject it to telomere testing.  I wish it could be me but thanks to the events of the past year my research has ground to a halt. But rest assured I’ll be back and maybe I will get to have a crack at that very question!!!

In the meantime known this.  If you want to lengthen the biologic time clocks of your cells also known as telomeres, turning on telomerase  remains the only way to do that. All of the other modalities simply slow the loss.

Do some, do all but do SOMETHING to help keep your telomeres Young.




The one and only original DR Dave!



*The wild claims for “afterburn” originated in a single study out of Australia that got quoted and used as a citation by over zealous trainers the world over.  That study has since been refuted several times and it points out the dangers of using only one study to reinforce your point of view. Frankly I see this a lot among people who write books and have no scientific background. The idea that it takes several studies that show repeatedly the same thing never even enters their minds.  Next time you read a book on fitness be aware of this!!! The good news is that real exercise physiologists have proven the factual aerobic and metabolic benefits of HIIT over the past decade with many different studies.

Reference: Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans” Matthew M. Robinson, Surendra Dasari, Adam R. Konopka, Matthew L. Johnson, S. Manjunatha, Raul Ruiz Esponda, Rickey E. Carter, Ian R. Lanza, K. Sreekumaran Nair DOI:


True Fitness and Personal Bias For My Friends Over 40 Part 2

Ok we visited the dream world and the real world in Part 1. Now let’s get to some specifics.

If you are middle aged and American, or at least “Western” you probably are overweight.  I hope you are not but this is a statistical reality.  Another statistical reality is you probably sit too much.

When we were younger, you and me, we could exercise our way into an ideal body weight.  Somewhere after 35 the equation shifts and diet becomes more and more important in achieving weight goal Nirvana.  For me it was ketogenic calorie restricted diet that taught me what I needed to know. It will soon be time for me to update that experience and share it with you.

For you it may be different but my guess is very few people actually do this so give it a try if all else has failed.

Ok now you’ve got your weight under control, let’s look at muscle systems.

When we were younger, you and me we played more.  And we played for the sake of playing, not under some structured rules that were dedicated to scores and winning.

The other day a friend of mine and I celebrated our mutual birthdays by going out to a big playing field that had once been the property of an elementary school.  It was now “administrative” so the fields were public playing property.  We brought boomerangs and aerobe discs (a kind of long distance Frisbee).  For 90 minutes we engaged in what exercise physiologists would call High Intensity Interval Training.  I called it throwing a Frisbee!

And yet the next day when I went out for my obligatory medium distance run (these days that is 5 miles) I felt what we had done the day before big time. Since it was not painful I consider it “good”.

After one day of full rest I hit the gym for some weights. The next day body weight followed by another full day of rest.

At the beginning and sometimes at the end of each day I do stretching and mobility exercises.  Yoga works fine if you prefer the specific set of things that defines Yoga- I simply chose to focus on what I know my body needs.

And there my friend is the true definition of fitness in my opinion: what your body needs!

We are after all a mix of genetic and epigenetic tendencies and gifts. Life experiences and aging shapes those gifts in certain ways and we become what we are in this moment.

Are you strong?  Are you fast?  Do you have endurance.  Can you move freely? Are you pain free or at least relatively so?

If you can answer yes to all of those things, then you are truly fit by any reasonable definition.

If not, then you have the area you should focus on and the cure for any fitness lack.

Now some specifics for you and a conundrum.

The other day on one of my runs I heard the heavy foot strikes of another runner fast approaching.

Since running can admittedly be boring at times I often “analyze” my fellow runners out there.  There is no harm in it if I a wrong since they are not paying me or listening to me for that matter.

This person was a rarity.  They were a bit heavy on foot strikes because of the timing of where in the stride they hit and stayed in ground contact. But everything else was really pretty darn good.  The cadence was good, the posture was good, the heel lift was good, and other than landing a bit too far forward of their center of mass, the whole mechanics looked much better than most.  I can’t tell you how many people I see that should not be running and are heading for an injury if they continue. In most cases the resilience of youth is all that is saving them!

This person was indeed young.  So now for the consult: what would I change.  Runners, real distance runners have a prototypical ultra-lean build.  They lack muscle mass especially upper body mass. Without being too disparaging I call it a hollow look.  Cyclists on the other hand have a more muscular physique although still quite lean.

Each of these people consider themselves fit. So we can theoretically use body habitus as a guide.  What kind of athlete do you want to look like?

I would have told the guy who passed me to drop 10 to 15 pounds.  I am certain it would have skyrocketed his running performance.

So what kind of physique would I personally aspire to?

For me it’s a gymnast.  Viola! Integrate gymnastics into your routine and you will begin after a time to take on that body habitus.  But what is gymnastics lacking?  Well they do not seem to do long slow distance exercise which from the anti-aging standpoint is the most studies and currently the most important.  Now you have the prescription: combine the two!

Ok so endurance work and body weight stuff, pull ups pushups, parallete work and standing balance postures (again Yoga is great) spaced out with specific tissue mobilization (Yamuna ball work, MAT etc.) with some endurance work and you have the perfect “middle aged” fitness workout.

Now a few caveats:

  • Most people have not done this kind of stuff in years if ever. Start slowly especially with the things that require hanging and supporting your body with shoulder strength (dips, bar hangs etc.)
  • You can and should sub out one endurance workout with a speed workout or high intensity interval training. To benefit from this, you’ll need several weeks of one day a week.  You can do more but again if you are new to it be careful not to over train.
  • Most people gravitate towards what they are good at. Skinny small muscled people tend to run; heavy boned thick muscled people tend to lift.  Before you are 40 it’s wonderful to make the most of your god given talents and body habitus as well as doing the sports you enjoy. But as you age, you should take a serious look at what you are lacking.  Skinny runners would do well to cut back their mileage and strength train 2 days a week.  Big muscular or more commonly these days fat, people should focus on endurance and cardiovascular fitness. So in a nutshell do what you are NOT good at and maybe don’t yet enjoy to develop the neglected aspects of your fitness.
  • Mobility mobility mobility! I honestly think for every hour of other fitness activity you do you should spend half as much time at least on mobility.  Some exercises like running for me require a 1 to 1 ratio.  Now you know why I don’t do 30 mile runs anymore!
  • As we age consistency becomes more and more important. The other day I had done my strength routine in the morning and a few hours later decided it was time expedient to go running.  About half way through the run I could tell the earlier effort and the unseasonable 85-degree weather were taking their toll so I cut the run short.  In doing this I probably avoided overtraining, possible injury, certain dehydration and skipping several days of running to recover.  Wisdom has taught me that showing up for the next workout is far more important than “getting my miles in” or hitting a certain weight lifted.  Show up!!!! Show up consistently so you can say it really is a habit!  Otherwise you’ll always be planning your personal fitness routine and not executing it.  You’ll always be planning and wishing you were fit instead of being it.

Experience has taught me!!!!

Now there are many things I did not cover such as changing your routines, sport specific stuff, periodization etc.  The info I have given you is an all-day everyday kind of approach.  If you want to develop specific attributes, then periodization may work better for you.

But I have found that such discussions become more and more the territory of personal trainers and exercise physiologists than aging athletes!

Your Health Secret for the Day is: Try spending the next 6 weeks doing the opposite of what you are good at!  If you are skinny and weak, do body weight, weight and band exercises. If you are strong in specific movements, try the bodyweight version of them and do some high intensity interval training on a Versa Climber or stationary bike.  Do what DOES NOT COME naturally to you for a month and a half while still doing less of what you are good at.  You may just discovery the missing link to your true fitness.


Live long, live well, have fun and share it!



True Fitness and Personal Bias for My Friends Over 40 Part 1

Well my friend it’s time to visit the fitness question again.   If you are familiar with my blogs in the past I have weighed in on the “best” kinds of exercises often.  The true answer to the “best “question is always “It depends on what you are trying to achieve!”

As a brief review, stuff that works for weight loss may not be the best for aesthetics. Stuff that works for endurance is not going to get you “big” and stuff that is centered on “anti-aging” is not necessarily the best for ANY of the rest of it.

So this now begs the question: what is fitness!

Rather than go into some long winded diatribe that parrots the experts in the field, I will keep it simple.

True fitness is something that allows you to do more of what you want to do with greater ease and nourishes your body in the process.

As you can see we are back to the “it depends” scenario but let me give you some practical interpretations.

A young testosterone driven male is focused on totally different things than a mother who is trying to lose “baby weight”.  One might say that endurance exercise is worthless if you can’t even bench press your body weight.  The other might say what good is all that specific strength if you can’t climb a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing.

Gee! Wouldn’t it be great if you could do both!!!

Of course you can and maybe should but let’s look a little bit closer and pick a way to decide what fitness really is, understanding that any definition is incomplete artificial and will probably change depending on what stage of life you are in and maybe even more importantly, how much time you have to spare.

But first let me tell you about a dream I had!

I dreamed I was running miles and miles along some city streets and country roads.  I am sure I was into the run for at least 20, probably 30 miles.  It was fun, in my dream- I was enjoying it.  Then reality set in.  Much like a lucid dream I started realizing this was “another me”- a dream me.  All of a sudden I realized I was carrying a heavy pack and did not know quite how to make it comfortable.  No matter I thought, this is fun!  Well then somehow my car magically appeared and I decided to put the heavy pack in the car and come back for it later.  Nice to be without this burden or so it seemed.

Then I realized I was actually pretty tired and had run enough.  “I’ll do a longer run down the road soon.”, I reasoned. Well you can probably guess that the next step in the dream was to sit in the car, turn the key and drive away!

Wow that felt nice!

I guess the point is that where reality and the dream world met I had the personal revelation that while running long distances WAS fun at one point in my life, the cost of doing it was no longer worth the reward.  I guess you could say, “Been there done that!”

What does this have to do with fitness you may ask, especially for you personally.

My point is your goals, needs, and enjoyments change. Allow that to be and be mindful of how that may impact your fitness in this current moment.

I always believed that doing what worked before was a sure fire way to get where I had been. The problem is that in spite of my many and successful efforts at staying young, my body has changed.

I tolerate sleep deprivation less.  Alcohol and carbohydrates and I do not get along any more- at all.

I need an extra day to rest and “doubles” (where I do an endurance workout and a strength workout in the same day) are generally not productive.  Viz a viz my dream, I also know that I would not be able to go from running a few miles a week to a 125K race in 8 months the way I did 8 years ago.

So once again how do we define fitness. Let’s face it most of us define it by past achievements. A long ultramarathon (yes there are short ones!) sets the bar pretty high.  A couple of true one arm pull ups sets the bar pretty high.  Benching 2 or 3 times your body weight sets the bar pretty high.

Before you look at and design your current program you need to truly ask if what you did in the past that got you into “the best shape of your life” is what you want now.

Personally I remember a moment when I was out on a 25 mile run and literally flying up the hills at the same pace I was able to handle on the flat.  That felt amazing- amazing enough that I remember it as a specific moment or vignette if you will.  But that was somewhere in training not several weeks later when I actually ran the 125K race.  Frankly the whole experience while mentally amazing was physically bad for me. The sequelae lasted several years to be frank!

What about when I was “strong”?  I honestly don’t remember how much weight was on the bar any more but it was enough to make the bar bend pretty significantly and it was way more than I weighed. But I doubt I could have done 5 pull ups and I was sore all the time.

Is that fitness?

Nowadays I am much more about the feeling good and doing things aspect of fitness. In the next blog I will get to the meat of the matter and tell you what I have learned from my adventures and misadventures.

Your health secret for the day and kinda your homework for the next installment is to answer the question, “What is it you really want from your body?” Keep in mind you can have it all- just not to the degree you probably want!

See you next time!


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Why We Get Fat and the World’s Best Diet

I am taking a short break and stepping off my telomere / fish oil soap box to revisit a topic that in the past was a big favorite: diet and obesity.

As I mentioned in my last blog my descent and resurrection from obesity is graphically detailed on the Ultra Strength Fat Furnace page.

My own journey to getting fat is actually pretty typical at least in terms of reasons why.

Those reasons are: significant and sudden decrease in activity, complete abandonment of any dietary restrictions in terms of my food choices, and finally lack of concern over how many calories I took in.  Briefly this was supposed to be an experiment to prove that Ultra Strength Fat Furnace worked and sped up weight loss.  I was going to gain 15 pounds and then hit the brakes and reverse it in a few weeks by reinstating my life style and adding the supplement I had created. I stopped all of my supplements during this time and man was it easy to pack on the pounds. The unplanned part happened when I developed and acute appendicitis and added 6 more weeks of inactivity and another 35 pounds to the weight loss tally.

A few months and 50 pounds less later I learned a couple of very important things I want to share with you about why we get fat and the world’s best diet to lose that fat.

The specific reasons I gave you above are the reason most people get fat. Once again they are:

  • Too many calories in.
  • Too few calories out.
  • Not enough physical activity.
  • The wrong choices of food.

The first 3 are undeniable and pretty much everybody knows this.  But the last one is really a sticking point.

Our diets are loaded with inflammatory food choices. By that I mean foods that tilt the balance of our immune system towards inflammation and cause havoc over time with our health.  But they also set up a kind of chain reaction where inflammation begets more inflammation and now you have a cycle that reinforces itself.  That is much harder to do once that cycle is established than it is to nip it in the bud.

At the same time our diets are loaded with carbs and sugar. Notice I am not distinguishing between simple and complex carbs anymore.  I am saying ALL carbs. Now I can hear the dieticians in the audience grumbling about my obvious “mistake” and oversight but I am very deliberate.

I think the best diet for rapid weight loss and overall health is a diet (e.g. reduced calories!) that leads to ketosis in your body.  You can call it a ketogenic diet if you like.  I think the biggest benefits are seen by the combination of ketosis and dietary energy reduction (DER). Some people would call that “calorie restriction” but I do not want to invoke all the baggage that comes with that term.  My recent sojourn to Wiaken Ranch in Joseph Oregon with OMD Dr Laurel Sander has reinforced that.  Seven days of juice (again some people would call that a “juice fast” and a daily calorie intake of about 50% my usual was easy to maintain and resulted in rapid weight loss of about 7 pounds. And it has stayed off because my appetite has stayed under control.

So if you like Carbs are the enemy. Simple carbs much more so than complex and fruits much more so than vegetables and sugared fruits and juices (ever wonder how they get cranberries to taste sweet?!).  In a month or so I will tackle a seven day water fast and let you know how that goes.

Anything that rapidly cranks up your insulin levels is a bad thing for your weight and your health. Be particularly wary of the “whole grain” agenda. There are a ton of reasons why I am not a grain fan but for our purposes today it’s because they tend to be loaded with calories even in small portions.

The things I really want to stress here are the following: Sugar is indeed addictive and sugary food choices including sweet fruits can sabotage your appetite control. You will get hungry by eating carbs in excess of 20 or so grams a day and this will make dieting miserable, exhausting and most likely, a failure.

I have always found that by day 3 or so of a really low carb ketogenic diet I have a lot of energy even with DER.

So is this the best diet in the world?  Just like my last blog the answer is “It depends”.

I think it is the best one to induce fairly rapid weight loss and long term recognition of your eating “habits”. Eating by routine instead of hunger fuels most of our “waist lines”. It will also teach you how sneaky and pervasive sugar and carbs that easily go to sugar are at getting you to lose control of food choices, portion control and your will power. Carbs and insulin are the enemy and sugars are far more addictive for some of us than we realize.

Finally it will teach you a huge lesson: most of us eat too much! Plain and simple.*

With those lessons you will gain insight into your body and how it works that will help you in ways you never dreamed of and give you a new sense of control over your life.

But as a long term diet I think its too easy to get into vitamin deficiencies if you are not careful. If you decide to do this make sure you take your supplements .

If it all seems too much for you than just go here and make it much easier .

Either way its time to take control of your weight and your life. Let’s make 2014 that year!


*I am referring to middle aged adults here because that is the “most of us” that is interested in staying younger. On a side note 10 years ago I carried 235 lbs of mostly muscle around. Nowadays its more like 195 with a similar body composition. I think being leaner as you age is just much healthier. And it will keep you from being “one of the many”. When I walk around in the company of guys my age with the huge guts, crappy posture and fat faces I feel like one of us is not human!

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Aerobic versus Intervals – The Best kind of Exercise Revisited

For the past decade I have intermittently written about the effects of exercise on health and body composition (primarily weight loss). My own descent and resurrection from Obesity is well detailed in graphic fashion. At that time I also obtained my CPT (Personal Trainer) certificate and began what would amount to a biannual sojourn to Boca Raton and the Institute of Human Performance to visit then Guru now Guru and dear friend Juan Carlos Santana.

I have learned an awful lot from Carlos and it has spurred my continued study of Exercise Physiology, something I obtained a Masters Degree in many years ago.

Along with over a decade of medical practice and another decade in supplement design all interspersed with tons of public speaking teaching normal people and doctors, I distilled one of the most common questions I get asked about exercise into the title of this blog.

“Doc what is the best kind of exercise?!”

I must get asked that 100 times a year from all kinds of people in all kinds of places.  I often give them JC’s answer: The best exercise is the one YOU do!

While this may sound like I am running from the issue it is not. JC has captured the central conundrum of exercise- We can’t get people to do enough of it regularly! Now that is a whole ‘nother lecture so I’ll save that and give my next most common answer:

It depends.

It depends very much on what you want. So then I have to go down that garden pathway with the person and find out what level of motivation, starting fitness and health and realistically what they are likely to stick with.

No mean feat.

The answer I most commonly get is…

“Doc I want to lose this excess body fat!  But I also want to have a great body be healthy and still feel attractive. I want fat loss strength and flexibility. I want to be sexy and have a high level of endurance. I want a six pack (guys) and a nice butt (girls). I don’t want to be muscle bound but I want to have muscles. I want to get rid of this belly (guys) and the muffin top (girls).  Oh yeah and I don’t want to be tired all the time. I don’t want to spend much money or invest much time either because I am super busy with all the other stuff that I have somehow decided is far more important than my health. I still need to watch my favorite TV shows and eat out 5 times a week at least. By the way will I have to diet to get to where I want? I hope not. Can’t I just exercise 20 minutes 3x a week like it says on ?” (Not a real link!)

In other words they want everything.

Not once has anyone ever said, “I want to do the exercise that helps me age most gracefully!” And rarely does anyone say “I want to learn to move better.”

There was this guy named Hans Seyle back in the 1930’s who coined the term adaptation as it applies to the body’s response to exercise. If you keep his principle of adaptation in mind you will understand the body becomes a mirror of the stimulus you give it. Power lifters get powerful and strong. They don’t always look that aesthetically pleasing.  Body builders get less strong significantly bigger (steroids aside) and much more aesthetically pleasing as long as they don’t go overboard. Runners tend to get scrawny in weak looking but they can go forever. And so on and so forth. Ultimately and this is just my opinion Gymnasts for men and skaters for women have the best overall aesthetically pleasing looks.

The point is you become a mirror of the kind of stimulus you give your body so chose wisely and don’t expect running to make you big by itself or power lifting to make you ultra lean by itself.

When I wrote my portion of our book “The Immortality Edge” I had had a lot of exposure to people who advocated Sprint or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).Two of the biggest pioneers were Matt Furey and Phil Campbell in that order and were among the first to fuel the fires of what would become the modern HIIT craze.

In our book we wrote that HIIT was the most efficient way to get in shape, maintain health and body weight. We also wrote about its effects on telomere length which is actually shared by Long Slow Distance (LSD).

I chose HIIT type training for the following reasons:

  1. It required only 30 min or so to get a great workout
  2. It can be done as almost zero impact in the pool
  3. It seems to be the fastest way to increase your cardiovascular fitness rapidly at least to a point.
  4. There is less of a tendency to stimulate the monstrous appetite that seems to follow really Long LSD exercise
  5. Bottom line this is a very efficient way to get in shape
  6. The contribution of EPOC Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption was supposed to be enough to add hundreds of calories to the overall calorie burn well beyond the time spent exercising. I had read some early studies that noted up to 600 calories more above and beyond whatever was burned during the exercise bout itself.

So EPOC became the buzz word for fat loss, sexy body composition and spiritual transformation and EPOC became the ‘secret’ to all good things that was defended by its faithful legion.But during my observations of how this type training affected my body I found I did not agree with the last point..  As per my usual approach of, “Gee this is pretty important since the whole premise is built on it. If I can I need to be sure that it is true or not true”, I found a simple way to do some research.

I found a device that accurately measures RMR and MR under other circumstances several years ago called Body Gem.  I initially used this device to evaluate 2 things:  The effects of exercise on me and a few willing “guinea pigs”, and the effects of what was then new, Energy X Maxx to the mix.

What I found was I did not lose weight on interval training alone.

In addition I did not have the “getting ripped effect” where body composition changed and body fat melted off me*. This was important because advocates of HIIT defended and marketed both of things like crazy.  Moreover I did not find the Effect of EPOC to be all that earth shattering.  Even with Tabata type intervals I only burned around 220 calories above resting and in me at least the level of increased metabolism lasted far less than the 24 to 36 hours that were originally touted. If you think about it in terms of weight loss and body composition you would want more calories burned than you take in and you would somehow like to shunt those calories away from muscle and into fat. Both were purported benefits of HIIT.

When I added the Energy X Maxx I was able to document on myself and several others around about 600 calories total excess burned (including the 200 from exercise) and see the effect lasting almost a full 24 hours although the level of burn fell off progressively from the time of exercise.

What I ultimately concluded was:

  1. In a well trained middle aged man trying to lose weight HIIT alone when adjusted for the progressive loss of effect over several hours probably was good for 100 calories of extra energy burned. My volunteers (all 4 of them!) had similar results.
  2. By adding a thermogenic supplement and adjusting for progressive loss of effect over time (although a 2 or 3X a day dose routine mitigated this somewhat) I could account for about 400 calories more. Again this is above and beyond the calorie burn of the HIIT session which was usually a 30 minute session with 90 to 92% heart rate for 30 second intervals repeated 8 times. That accounted for another 250 calories or so.
  3. HIIT alone was not going to help with weight loss although it was effective for weight maintenance. Adding a thermogenic definitely made weight loss easier and rather dramatic because 600 calories extra everyday for 6 weeks adds up to serious weight loss!
  4. EPOC was at least in me way overestimated even when different lengths and times of intervals were used. I started with traditional Tabata type intervals on a treadmill or stationary bike at first.
  5. To get the kind of fitness level and body I wanted I had to use more or less standard resistance training and some LSD as well. If the LSD could integrate some intervals (brutally hard to do!) it had even more benefit!
  6. Contrary to what the Gurus had written, LSD also had some EPOC, in some cases more than HIIT!

It turns out that several years after my little personal study several bona fide scientific studies were done and they showed the following.

The maximum EPOC from HIIT training was only 10% of the actual total calorie burn, was long gone after less than 6 hours, maxed out at 220 Cal which again was a spot measurement and fell of the further you went out from the actual exercise. It was long gone the same day and lasted nowhere near the purported 24 hours.

Stated another way HIIT calories come mainly from the actual bout of exercise not the EPOC- something I found to be true years earlier in my own case.

Now here is the thing. I still stand by our recommendations in the Immortality Edge because HIIT may actually work better for out of shape people to get them in shape than any other type of exercise.  It certainly works faster!  Depending on what type of HIIT you do you will get some different results. When I was doing my personal study I eventually settled on 4 minute intervals at 85% heart rate max ( and this was controlled by using a HR monitor) with anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes recovery depending on where my fitness level was.  Repeats were 6 to 8 and I did these on a Schwinn Airdyne cycle which remains my favorite low impact device.  I did my Tabata’s (30 seconds on full and 30 to 60 seconds off) with a flotation vest in deep water at the pool.

When you do the longer lower intensity intervals

It has been shown to improve your heart rate and “cardio” conditioning more than the really short super high intensity ones which develop explosive strength more.  As you go longer the contribution of aerobic (burning oxygen) metabolism goes up so this makes sense.

All HIIT had very positive benefits on metabolic parameters like insulin; blood lipids etc so from a health perspective it seems you can get the same benefits as LSD in less time.

What did I learn?

HIIT is very efficient and very useful. It is a great way to “get” in shape or get to the next level of fitness.  It has great metabolic effects. It is not, at least for me and my co-crazies, a way of losing weight or changing body composition by itself. It requires support from other forms of exercise including LSD.

So HIIT is slowly coming down off its high horse and LSD is resuming its rightful place among exercise.  This upsets a lot of people.  I can recall a Gynecologist publically ridiculing me and humiliating himself by angrily telling me I was FOS when I said we are always in the fat burning zone except when we are doing HIIT! He insisted incorrectly that you only burn fat when you hit 90% of your Heart Rate and that this was the “Fat Burning Zone”. This is what happens when people get their information from the internet and believe people who “look” credible but are themselves FOS.

HIIT burns more fat after in its EPOC phase but as we see that was way over estimated. During your HIIT session you are actually using the glycolytic (sugar burning lactate producing) pathways. The angry Gynecologist had done something I see all to commonly these days. He let an internet site or Guru make him forget his education in favor of popular public opinion. Destroying a myth is not a great way to win friends and influence people!

And what happened to all the HIIT gurus?

They are still out there quoting the old studies done with old inaccurate methodology and study design.  The courses and books touting “Get Ripped”  “Afterburn” and “Destroying the Fat Loss Dogma” are still referenced as gospel truth. The information is still quoted as factual, and their devoted legions are still angrily lashing out at me.  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if I get some comments on this blog that way even though I have had very positive things to say about HIIT.

In the meantime I still stand by my original answer to the question, “Doc what is the best form of exercise?”

It depends.


All the Best,

Dr Dave


*There are several well known videos and highly respected trainers who have shown wonderful transformations in their athletes by adding HIIT training and decreasing other forms of training during this time. Tabata the Japanese speed skating coach had great results with his speed skaters in competition and noted remarkable increases in their aerobic capacity. Here’s the thing. These people were all Olympic level athletes. They were already at a super human level of fitness and probably needed one tweak to their training to change their outcomes. That tweak was the metabolic boost given by HIIT but it was contingent on a couple of things: They were quite YOUNG like under 30. They were already in tremendous shape and could tolerate maximal or even “supra” maximal stimulus without whining or getting injured. Their training environment and nutrition were strictly controlled and they did not do other things like try to earn a living. And I guarantee you they did a ton of other stuff besides just HIIT, including some LSD and weight training.

When these principles were applied to even the average active young person the results were less stellar. In the middle aged about to get sick group, you know the 50 something fat  metabolic early diabetic men, the calorie burns were flat out disappointing even though they were at 85% max heart rate. They stayed kinda fat middle aged and frumpy!  But, they got healthier in a big way quick. In other words it not only depends on what YOU want but WHERE you are starting from and how far you can actually go!



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Still not Dead!

In mid-July a ridiculous poorly designed poorly done study was published by a “reputable journal” from the National Cancer Institute.  It associated “high Omega 3 intake” with a 70% increased risk of prostate cancer. It was published by one Dr T. Brasky and his research time and derived from a sub group analysis of another study called the SELECT Trail designed to look at the effects of selenium on prostate cancer risk.

In my blog “As I lay Dying” and the subsequent blogs after it I detailed how absurd the Brasky study was. I concluded that in my opinion the negative press was absolutely a deliberate ploy in the part of these researchers to get attention.

Sadly it worked.

For a while.

I remember one irate gentleman out there who engaged me on another web site basically saying that 3 well known experts including a nationally famous Urologist and a well-known Endocrinologist said it was dangerous and “did I think I knew more about prostate cancer than they did”.

I didn’t bother to answer at that point because it was pointless but here is the answer I would have given: “No I don’t know more about prostate cancer, but I know a hell of a lot more about Omega 3’s and fish oil than those bozo’s!”

So for about 6 weeks I stood as pretty much a lone voice for fish oil.

But I predicted in due time another study, a better designed study, a study that was actually asking a question instead of selling and agenda, would come out and refute any association and support the use of fish oil as a beneficial thing in prostate cancer.

This by the way is not rocket science. The positive studies on fish oil outnumber the negative 99.9 to1.

So a recent study from UCLA was just released that showed the combination of a low fat diet along with fish oil ( which is ALL fat by the way!) may help prevent recurrent prostate cancer and decrease its growth .

One comment the only role of eating a low fat diet in this disease and other diseases in my opinion is that it limits the amount of grain fed Omega 6 rich meat these men consumed. If they ate free range grass fed I think it would be of additional help.

One way to boost the Omega 3 ratio in the blood is to consume less of its opposite, Omega 6.

Restricting Omega 6 and increasing Omega 3 are critical to cancer prevention in everything I have ever read.

Which leads me to the final statement. I think the National Cancer Institute’s allowance of Dr Brasky’s study to be published was bordering on criminal.

Worse werethe statements he allegedly made recommending people to consume more Omega 6.

That advice will in my opinion actually increase your risk of cancer.

To all the internet guru’s, internet doctors, cowardly health care providers, news anchors and “experts” who immediately jumped on the “Fish oil may increase risk of Prostate Cancer” where are you now?

Probably onto some other trending story that will boost your sales and your ratings.


To the guy who told me I was wrong and he was right because he had expert opinion on his side, I am waiting for your letter of apology.

I have yet to see one retraction from anyone.

To all my faithful readers, clients, customers and patients who had learned enough from me to know this whole thing was bogus I say congratulations for not being snowed by “public opinion”.

If anything, after 12 years you know I tell you the truth even when it is not popular. I don’t side with the traditional allopathic agenda. I don’t side with the Holistic or Alternative agenda. I routinely disagree with “experts” on both sides of that fence.

Me? I side with the truth. And believe me there is truth out there.

That truth is all you and me will ever need to live our best lives!

With deepest appreciation…

Dr Dave

PS Not only am I not dead, but I am growing younger as we speak!!!

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What is Two Years worth?

The answer to that question has many different answers. I know this for a fact because I asked it at a recent conference I spoke at and I got as many different answers as there were people willing to answer it!

The ranges varied from $10,000 through millions to “priceless”!  As long as it was 2 healthy years of course!

So the next question is: “When is Two Years not Two Years.

The answer to that question requires a little more science and a little more explanation.

First I have to tell you I read the press release that was “written for me” with a mixture of humor and horror. You see my past experiences with press releases have taught me that this is one type of writing I am not good at. I would say 70% of the press releases I have written in the past were rejected and never made it to publication. So this time I hired an expert because the message is too important: I really am showing objective if not universally accepted signs of getting younger from my telomeres to my bone marrow.

And like one of the heads of a large “CEO farm” I talked to recently wanted to know, I can give objective value to how someone is doing versus the rest of people in their age range.

So when is 2 years not really 2 years?

Answer” When it is actually more like 7 or 8 years.

Let me explain by telling you about to types of age: chronologic age- how many birthdays you’ve counted, and biologic age- how old your cells act versus the rest of the population in your age range.

For biologic age you can use either median telomere length or percentage of short telomeres but the later is far more indicative of your actual biologic age.* This is why I only use the Life Length Assay for individual telomere evaluations and why I also am using it for our stem cell studies. There are other companies promising similar evaluations at a lower cost but when you ask them to show you the science as to how, you get no response. Especially when they figure out you are not a newbie to the field.

So if you read our press releases you know that I am actually biologically 2 years younger now than I am chronologically. To be clear I have counted 54 birthdays but I am 52 biologically.

If you think about it that is kinda magical and there is not much on this planet that will do that for you other than what I have outlined in these recent blog posts.

But there actually is more. Before I started TA-65 in 2009 I had a baseline test done which showed my telomeres to be close to 60 years old. I was 50 years old then and had been on a lot of good things to help with the aging process for a long time. As a matter of fact I am Board Certified in Anti-Aging so I practiced everything I was taught on myself as well as my patients. But biologically I was still 10 years older than my stated age. In other words, in spite of all that good stuff I had gotten older faster than I should have.

Now a couple of things should be entertained here. First we don’t know how bad or good I would have been had I not done all those “standard anti-aging practices” including diet and exercise.  Next you have to account for the life of a busy Internist in my earlier years which had to have taken its toll. Years of life or death stress, minimal sleep, 80 to 100 hour work weeks for at least a decade superimposed on heavy weight lifting and ultra marathons in excess of 75 miles do not make a particularly healthy life style.

Rather than defend what some of my readers have called “extreme behavior” I will simply say that in those years I felt invincible.

But my telomeres knew and my telomeres didn’t lie.

I had aged a full decade beyond my time. Specifically for those of you skeptics out there my telomere length was recorded at 6.90Kbs.  A few months ago I had it measured again and along with a reduction in short telomeres from my last test of 3% (doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s significant!) my telomere length was 7.53Kbs putting me, for the first time, on the correct side of the aging curve.**

So let’s look at this for a minute. In the past few years my telomeres “grew” both healthier (fewer short telomeres) and longer. Neither of those things is supposed to happen as you get older, in my case 4 years older. If you look at biologic age I started at 60 and now I am 52. If you look at chronologic age I started at 50 and now I am 54.

So in the 4 years since I started TA-65 and practiced the things I wrote about in The Immortality Edge I was able to reverse my biologic age by 8 years! So even though I am only 2 years younger than my chronologic age when I started, biologically, I am actually a full 8 years younger.

Couple this with my young looking bone marrow, the strong healthy growth of my stem cells and my very healthy looking cellular peripheral blood sample I have every reason to be excited.

And so do you because from day one I have shared what I do and how I do it with my readership through the book, the newsletters and the blog.

You can know everything I know and you can do some or all of what I do if you value your future at the same level I do mine.

And it’s working!


*In the interest of disclosure you should know that not every telomere scientist believes in the biologic age concept. This is one reason I am studying what is happening to the stem cell population as a result of these interventions.  It may take a few years to come to the final conclusion but as you can see from the above-the preliminary indications are very exciting. Some of the crusty old scientists in the field will say this is all running around in circles and we should neither be excited by improvements in these things nor should we try to mess with them. My years as a clinician watching the suffering and loss of dignity that too often accompanies the aging process tells ME differently and I will not sit by and be passive.

The not so crusty younger bunch of scientists I hang out with are gobbling TA-65 and anything else they can that positively affects their telomere lengths (hint fish oil!)

I also believe that the leaps and bounds that we need to make will come from a small group of people who are willing to be guinea pigs like I am. Nothing I tell you to do has shown anything but positive health consequences and it will always be that way because I will be doing it to myself, followed by my loved ones, followed by a small group of trusting and dedicated volunteers LONG BEFORE it ever gets to you. That said as soon as I am sure it’s safe and effective YOU hear about it. But as in the case of our book which has been out for 3 years now, the initial reaction is often less than skeptical because we are on the cutting edge and doing things with information not generally available to the rest of the world including many scientists and doctors. Boy does this piss them off! But they never come back and say “Hey you were right all along!” Instead they say, “Everybody knows that!” as if they knew it all along too.

** There is a degree of variation with all tests, especially telomere tests. The Life Length assay has the lowest possible variation of 5% completely in line with the “biologic system” in this case the variability of telomere length one could normally expect to see. If you apply that in a negative fashion to the numbers above I am still at least 4 years younger biologically. Equally likely is a variation the other way actually undervaluing my telomere growth by 5% which would mean I am even younger biologically- closer to a full decade! Either way I win and so do you!

Finally I was paid the highest compliment I could ever ask for just a few minutes before I wrote this to you. The chief scientist of the stem cell company I am working with called me and said, “I need to get on that stuff you are taking!”

It’s on its way my friend, it’s on its way.

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What Kind of Exercise is Best for Telomere Health?

telomeres photoThere has been a lot of focus on “Long slow distance” (LSD) exercise and telomere health.  I have oft quoted the “German Runners Study” which was actually a paper presentation and not a fully published work at the time that it got so much press.  That study showed that men who ran at high levels (50 miles a week) had telomere length comparable to 25-year-olds.  It did not, however, address what other exercises they were doing, their supplementation habits, their family genetics and their overall lifestyles. More importantly it did not look at what their actual favorite distance was. If you run everyday, 50 miles a week boils down to about 6.7 miles a day.  Five days a week and you are at 10 miles a run.  These are not marathons, nor are they marathon training distances in most cases. Yet every marathon blog on the planet was saying “SEE! Marathons can make you live longer!” In point of fact, serious long term high level marathon training doesn’t even start until you hit about 70 miles a week and there is an association with cardiac dilatation, valvular dysfunction and potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias, probably causing some of the famous “runners deaths” we read about from time to time. By the way, this is also seen in endurance cycling. I remind you, I have run ultra-marathons, which are often 3x marathon distance, but I have not done that my whole life and currently limit myself to 6 miles a run, maximum.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, telomere length and weight training have not been adequately evaluated with a large well controlled study. There is, however, data on grip strength, leg strength and overall power generation and longevity, all of which suggests you need some muscle and especially power (max force x min time = max power) to live long.


Additionally, there is a published study showing the benefits of “interval style” training for telomerase activation and telomere health.

For most people I still like this for getting in shape. In my practice, the LSD preselects out “people who can take it” because the only ones left standing are those with the genetics (and joints!) to tolerate the LSD. In addition, two other things to consider: 1) People will want to generalize this to “fit” their sport. I guarantee you this will wind up on marathon blogs as proof of the “healthiness” of running marathons or some other thing. It will also wind up on gym blogs as proof that “exercise is good for longevity and come buy a membership to our gym!” This study was about cross country skiing and while it was endurance, it is a very different exercise than long distance running. Remember as you get out your Dr Dave Voodoo dolls that I am an ultra-runner and am telling you I do not think it is healthy for most! This is one reason I take high dose TA-65! 2) The study does not address causality and we have no way of knowing that the long distance skiers do not do a lot of other healthy things that essentially preselect for longer telomeres and a better healthspan.  Finally, the fastest way to improve your cardiac fitness and VO2 max is interval-style training. This will help any LSD work you do if you do that because, contrary to popular belief, LSD does not raise VO2 max much at all! I run ultras because I like what it does for my brain and I enjoy the solitude of moving through miles of territory most people avoid – not because it is good for my telomeres!  Take your fish oil, Take TA-65 if you can and have a rigorous regular exercise routine that includes mobility, strength and endurance. And keep your eyes open for my two books that should come out towards the end of this year.

Thanks to Andy Newman for asking this question!

I’ve also written extensively on lengthening your telomeres with your food choices as well as natural telomerase activators outside of just exercise. Remember good health takes a broad spectrum of attention, don’t just focus on lengthing your telomeres with exercise, get the complete picture.


P.S. – I have addressed this question before to Mr. S Kumar who was kind enough to read it and change his evaluation of my book on Amazon based on this reply.

Hi, thanks for your comment and concerns. Let me say up front that I highly doubt you are going to change your recommendation no matter what I say but there is justification and a citation below for interval training. I can find none for marathon running and telomere length but welcome the citation if you have it.

I think we have to be careful about too much interpretation of the data on some of these studies. For instance, if you read the most quoted “German Runners Study” you will find most of the elderly (51 is elderly!?) runners were not marathon runners specifically. This has been reported differently on web sites and blogs to include marathoners, half-marathoners, triathletes and even used to justify weight training. They were in fact a mixed group of athletes who ran an average of 50 miles a week for the bulk of their adult lives but many were not marathoners. As a matter of fact, the word “marathon” is not mentioned in the study at all. In addition, there is a difference between WBC telomere length and skeletal muscle telomere length and the results are often opposite. (See Below)
I have included some references and posts below that may point you to a different conclusion or to at least be open to other options.
If you are looking for a randomized, double-blinded, double dummy, placebo, gold standard, you will not find it for any exercise or diet or meditation in humans.
Also, one needs to be careful about studies that use only TRAP assays for telomerase as a surrogate for lengthening telomeres, as this is not always the case.
Thus, when one writes a book on cutting edge topics, sometimes one has to interpret based on their own experiences and findings. Or we could simply have waited another 25 years to write the book, but even then much of this will remain unproven in the randomized, double-blinded, double dummy, placebo, gold standard sense, since those studies are extremely expensive and unaffordable for anyone but drug companies who do not stand to gain from the answers to the above questions.
The logic behind choosing interval training for much of the programs in the book is based on the following AND the information included below.
1) VO2 max can be trained up fast with interval training and this (V02 max) correlates with mean telomere length. You may be familiar with the study where experienced interval-trained individuals who were non-runners trained for 12 weeks for a 10K distance and outperformed people who had been running 10K’s for a long time. Exclusively training distance, as so many runners do, is not the best way to achieve total cardiovascular fitness. Also, if done properly, interval training can be done at high intensity with low trauma (deep water pool sprints) allowing even injured people to do it.
2) This was a book for ‘everyman and everywoman’, not specifically athletes or runners. This means the program had to be doable for the average person in terms of time commitment and results. Giving the average non-runner a running program did not fit the goals of the book. Nor would it achieve the results people are looking for, including us.
3) Go to any running club and you will find a large volume of chronically injured runners there. I am a sometime marathoner and ultra-marathoner as well, and my experiences have taught me this is not the healthiest thing to do from a musculoskeletal standpoint.

Again, see #1 with regards to injury.
4) There is a study below on interval training but I could not find any on marathon runners except with regards to shorter telomere lengths and overtraining syndromes.
5) I am an Internist/anti-aging doc and, while I am not a basic science researcher, I have checked telomere lengths in my athletic clients in the past and I have found the MTL to be longer in general in the cross trained individuals than people who just run. Again, this is not a RDBC study by any means but a clinical impression which should be worth something to a reader.
6) Now that the Life Length assay is available, we have a much better tool to assess these findings but don’t hold your breath for any of the above studies to be repeated any time soon. Again, funding is everything in science.
I think in terms of bang for buck, time wise and damage wise, interval training is a great place to start for most people since the oxidative stress is far less even though the intensity is far higher.
It is important to actually read studies and not just abstracts, blogs, online/newspaper articles because they often get the facts wrong. Since the “german runners study” I have seen that very article used to justify all different forms of exercise from yoga to Pilates to dancercise, etc. That is clearly not what it says. In addition, that article did not control for the most important confounding variables such as what else do people who run 50 miles a week do for their health/telomeres that sedentary people do not do – sleep, other training, supplements, maintaining body weight, etc. As such it is an observational study and does not establish causality. Then again, very few studies do on this or any other topic – so again, clinical acumen/experience is the surrogate.
I would love to see more research done here and if you have 5 million dollars to donate I will see it gets put to good use and answers these questions definitively!

Finally, let me say that for a good deal of the last 10 years I have run long and ultra-long distances. No one would be happier if long distance running were the ultimate telomere life preserver. But at this moment we can’t say that unless you know of studies I do not. I remain open to be educated.


Dr Dave


May 28, 2010
Bursts of Vigorous Activity Appear to Be a ‘Stress-Buffer’
FRIDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) — Short bouts of vigorous exercise (interval training) can go a long way to reduce the impact stress has on cell aging, new research reveals.
Vigorous physical activity amounting to as little as 14 minutes daily, three day per week would suffice for the protective effect to kick in, according to findings published online in the May 26 issue of PLoS ONE.
The apparent benefit reflects exercise’s effect on the length of tiny pieces of DNA known as telomeres. These telomeres operate, in effect, like molecular shoelace tips that hold everything together to keep genes and chromosomes stable.
Researchers believe that telomeres tend to shorten over time in reaction to stress, leading to a rising risk for heart disease, diabetes and even death. However, exercise, it seems, might slow down or even halt this shortening process.
“Telomere length is increasingly considered a biological marker of the accumulated wear-and-tear of living, integrating genetic influences, lifestyle behaviors and stress,” study co-author Elissa Epel, an associate professor in the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) department of psychiatry, said in a news release. “Even a moderate amount of vigorous exercise appears to provide a critical amount of protection for the telomeres.”
Appreciation for how telomeres function and how stress might affect their length stems from previous Nobel-prize winning work conducted by UCSF researchers. Prior studies have also suggested that exercise is in some way associated with longer telomere length.
The current effort, however, is the first to identify exercise as a potential “stress-buffer” that can actually stop telomeres from shortening in the first place.
The team found that those women who were experiencing high levels of stress but were deemed “active” did not have shorter telomeres, whereas similarly stressed participants deemed “inactive” did.
Going forward, the study authors said that more research incorporating larger patient samples need to be conducted to confirm the findings and arrive at definitive recommendations for how much exercise might be needed to derive such cellular protection.
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 May;109(2):323-30. Epub 2010 Jan 26.
Skeletal muscle telomere length in healthy, experienced, endurance runners.
Rae DE, Vignaud A, Butler-Browne GS, Thornell LE, Sinclair-Smith C, Derman EW, Lambert MI, Collins M.
UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa. [email protected]
Measuring the DNA telomere length of skeletal muscle in experienced endurance runners may contribute to our understanding of the effects of chronic exposure to endurance exercise on skeletal muscle. This study compared the minimum terminal restriction fragment (TRF) length in the vastus lateralis muscle of 18 experienced endurance runners (mean age: 42 +/- 7 years) to those of 19 sedentary individuals (mean age: 39 +/- 10 years). The runners had covered almost 50,000 km in training and racing over 15 years. Minimum TRF lengths measured in the muscle of both groups were similar (P = 0.805) and within the normal range. Minimum TRF length in the runners, however, was inversely related to their years spent running(r = -0.63, P = 0.007) and hours spent training (r = -0.52, P = 0.035). Therefore, since exposure to endurance running may influence minimum TRFlength, and by implication, the proliferative potential of the satellite cells, chronic endurance running may be seen as a stressor to skeletal muscle.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Sep;35(9):1524-8.
Athletes with exercise-associated fatigue have abnormally short muscle DNA telomeres.
Collins M, Renault V, Grobler LA, St Clair Gibson A, Lambert MI, Wayne Derman E, Butler-Browne GS, Noakes TD, Mouly V.
Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa. [email protected]
Although the beneficial health effects of regular moderate exercise are well established, there is substantial evidence that the heavy training and racing carried out by endurance athletes can cause skeletal muscle damage. This damage is repaired by satellite cells that can undergo a finite number of cell divisions. In this study, we have compared a marker of skeletal muscle regeneration of athletes with exercise-associated chronic fatigue, a condition labeled the “fatigued athlete myopathic syndrome” (FAMS), with healthy asymptomatic age- and mileage-matched control endurance athletes.
Muscle biopsies of the vastus lateralis were obtained from 13 patients diagnosed with FAMS and from 13 healthy control subjects. DNA was extracted from the muscle samples and their telomeric restriction fragment (TRF) or telomere lengths were measured by Southern blot analysis.
All 13 symptomatic athletes reported a progressive decline in athletic performance, decreased ability to tolerate high mileage training, and excessive muscular fatigue during exercise. The minimum value of TRF lengths (4.0 +/- 1.8 kb) measured on the DNA from vastus lateralis biopsies from these athletes were significantly shorter than those from 13 age- and mileage-matched control athletes (5.4 +/- 0.6 kb, P < 0.05). Three of the FAMS patients had extremely short telomeres (1.0 +/- 0.3 kb). The minimum TRF lengths of the remaining 10 symptomatic athletes (4.9 +/- 0.5 kb, P < 0.05) were also significantly shorter that those of the control athletes.
“These findings suggest that skeletal muscle from symptomatic athletes show extensive regeneration which most probably results from more frequent bouts of satellite cell proliferation in response to recurrent training- and racing-induced muscle injury.
The vast majority of research on exercise and telomeres points towards cardiovascular exercise as the key component needed to protect telomeres. It is clear moderate intensity aerobic exercise should be a component of training for telomere health. However, other studies have shown that chronic stress coming from excessive exercise or excessive stress may be the major cause of telomere dysfunction. This may be an issue when you consider chronic exercise such as marathon training, which raises cortisol without the benefit of growth promoting hormones. A brand new study in the journal Hormones (volume 8 #1) has shown that a relative excess of cortisol and insulin compared to the anabolic hormones HGH and testosterone plays a key role in telomere damage.
Shorter more intense exercise does a better job at balancing this hormonal equation, and therefore it may have a central role to play. Researchers studying this issue have also noted shortened telomere length in exercisers and athletes suffering from exercise related fatigue and in long-term competitive endurance runners. The May 2010 issue of the European Journal of Applied physiology showed endurance runners compared to healthy sedentary individuals have telomere lengths inversely proportional to the amount of running they did. In other words, the more mileage they accumulated over the years, the shorter their telomeres. It is interesting to note, even with all the exercise they did, their telomeres were not significantly longer than the sedentary non-exercisers.
This same issue was looked at in a group of competitive power lifters. In the January 2008 issue of Sports and Medicine in Science and Exercise long-term weight lifters were compared to a group of healthy active individual who were not weight lifters. There was no detriment seen in the weight lifting group in terms of telomere length, but they too had no significant advantage over the healthy active controls. However, the vast majority of other studies show exercise does provide an advantage. So what do we make of these results and studies? Exercise is protective to telomeres but excessive exercise may actually be a detriment.”