Written By Susan Shen and Katalin Ogren
The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.7 years. Women live on average to about 81.2 years and men a little less, 78.8 years. 50 years ago, men lived only to 67 and women to 73 years ago. The fact that humans have managed to increase their years on this planet between 10-14% since 1967 validates the billons of dollars invested in the anti-aging sciences and their cottage industries.
In the recent years, there has been prolific growth on the topic of anti-aging. This extends beyond the cosmetic industry. The anti-aging science and research being done within the wellness industry includes nutrition, exercise prescription and physiology. Some of the most common anti-aging techniques widely used include:
- drinking more water to improve hydration
- consuming more healthy fats for glowing skin
- using higher quality anti-aging creams daily
- injecting Botox on a regular schedule to manage wrinkles
- taking more anti-inflammatory supplements
- cutting back on alcohol and caffeine
- increasing sleep to help with overall healing of the body
Most of these practices will make the skin look younger and suppler, which is a worthwhile goal in itself. However, a youthful look is not always characteristic of your health on a cellular level, despite a compliment like, “he/she looks so much younger than their age, it must be in their genes.” As this is often true, it is more accurate to say, it’s in their cells.
A New Way to Look at Anti-Aging
To better understand some areas of advancements made in the anti-aging science, it is essential to review some basic physiology. Over the last decade, a tremendous amount of research has been focusing on mitochondria, the powerhouse of our cells. Through these studies, the mitochondrial function has emerged as one of the most relevant metrics for whole body health and well-being. Besides producing the energy currency (ATP) utilized by our body, the abundance and the quality of our mitochondria can warrant us the youthful look and healthy body we all seek. Like any working machine, the inner parts or minutia have a direct effect on the quality of function and the sustainability of that machine’s ability to keep on going. “The mitochondria in the cells throughout our bodies are responsible for creating 90% of the energy needed to sustain life and support organ function,” according to United Mitochondria Disease Foundation.
Here is a brief look at what these little organelles do for our body:
- The more mitochondria we have, the more oxygenated our cells become.
- The more mitochondria we have, the more energy they can generate for our body. In other words, you can improve your metabolism.
- The better the quality of our mitochondria, the better we’re able to fight off disease or even lessen the severity of the disease.
- The better quality of our mitochondria, the better and stronger our cells become during the duplication process. For example, they become better at fending off stress (on all levels, both physically and emotionally).
- The more mitochondria and the higher the quality, the better our bodies become at delaying the onset of dementia.
- The more mitochondria and the higher the quality, the longer we can preserve our skeletal musculature and lean body mass.
Our Genes Don’t Control Our Entire Future
Ok, we’re going to nerd out just a bit with a little more physiology.
Although most of our cell's DNA resides in the cell’s nucleus (or center), the mitochondrion has its independent genome (the organism’s complete set of DNA) that shows substantial similarities to bacterial genomes. Scientists believe that mitochondria were once free-living organisms that developed a symbiotic relationship with mammalian cells over millions of years of evolution. Thus, the mitochondrial proteome can dynamically regulate itself independent of our individual DNA. In a simpler term, mitochondria can make more and better copies of itself through biogenesis, or cell splitting. The caveat in this process is that it can only be activated by contractile-initiated signals (or muscle contractions) in response to environmental stimuli, such as aerobic exercises. Therefore, further affirmations that exercise can help with the anti-aging process.
So, if you’re eating healthy and exercising regularly, great! Keep up the good work, and keep yourself young inside and out. However, research has gone a step further suggesting there are particular pointers during our exercises where our body undergoes the most amount of cellular duplication. The intensity of exercise directly impacts the way ATP will be utilized, and as a result, mitochondria facilitates its optimum production during the oxidation phase of physical activity often referred to as the fat burning zone.
How Exercise Effects Mitochondria Production
Different intensity exercise stimulates a different morphological response affecting mitochondria production. When you are working out, and you transition from aerobic to anaerobic exercise, the biogenesis (cell splitting) of mitochondria can reach to 18 times more than usual. This process occurs because the body experiences the most oxygen demand at the moment your body transitions from aerobic to anaerobic. Anaerobic exercise (anaerobic indicates no oxygen is present) uses an entirely different fuel source (from fatty acids to glucose, or the food we have consumed before exercise) for energy than aerobic exercise. Therefore, low to moderate intensity exercise will continue to expand your mitochondrial base or solidify your health foundation. If you want your mitochondria to be better quality over time, then add any of the popular High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes to your workout regimen. A typical HIIT workout aims at alternating between high-intensity workloads (70 to 90% of max heart rate) and rest periods (60 to 65 percent max heart rate). It is the high-intensity workloads that place our body under the most amount of stress, thus stimulating transformation within the mitochondria, and affecting its quality over time.
Using Exercise to Feel Younger
Exercise is an essential part of the anti aging formula. The exercise sciences have so much to offer us in designing workout programs that cater specifically to our body. There is valuable technology available that reveals unique information about our individual bodies, like the exact foods to eat and the minimum number of calories needed to live. Learning some exercise physiology basics can help you organize your workouts so you can remain active during the later years of life. There is even technology available that can provide you with a fingerprint of your metabolism. The body's metabolism refers to how it utilizes and stores fat, produces energy, burns calories and conducts cellular processes like mitochondria biogenesis.
With all the tech available enhancing the exercise sciences, some things will never change, drinking more water, eating healthier and getting more sleep will make you healthier and contribute to feeling and looking younger. Science is propelling studies that are revealing how physical activities can maximize the body's ability to create new mitochondria. Exercise design that reflects your individual metabolism can provide more energy, less pain and slow down the aging process. Well-planned workouts can make aging a more vibrant experience and even reduce oxidative stress on the body. Once of the newest tests available is the The Method CRA-Test® . It is an innovative test that determines your metabolic fingerprint. The Method Difference, a Denver-based company, offers a simple non-invasive test that looks at a person’s metabolism on the cellular level. The result provides you with incremental heart rates at which point your body transitions from one energy system to another during any activity. These heart rate numbers directly relate to anti-aging as they can be strategically used to guide your workouts to find the perfect balance between aerobic and anaerobic training.
Nicholas J. Edwards, a renowned Exercise Physiologist, and co-Founder of The Method CRA-Test® refers to any workout that results in the highest cellular production (mitochondria biogenesis) as your PRIME heart-rate workout. The PRIME heart rate is when our body transitions from aerobic to anaerobic. It is at this point, that the intensity of the activity increases and the body cannot continue oxygen uptake to meet the body's energy demand. It is also where our body burns the most amount of fat, which requires oxygen to be present. This heart rate is unique to each person based on our individual biological and sociological differences (i.e., sex, age, weight, height, nutrition, lean body mass, stress level, illnesses, environment, ethnicity, etc.). Heart rate-based charts seen displayed on the typical cardio machines do not provide an accurate guide, and their guesstimate holds a 30% margin of error.
High-intensity interval workouts should be used to enhance the quality of mitochondria production. Remember it is the combination of higher quantity and quality of these cells that have a positive effect on the anti-aging process. HIIT workouts will take the body from a lower heart rate (ideally around your prime heart-rate) to your anaerobic heart rate. For example, 150 is my prime heart-rate, and 176 is my anaerobic heart-rate. Adjusting my workout intensity by steadily increasing my heart rate from 150 to 176 would be considered one workout interval. Using my precise heart rate numbers to guide me through several rounds of intervals will stimulate high-quality mitochondria production over time. If I decided to train at 150 for an entire workout, I would then be focusing on maximizing the number of mitochondria production, which also optimizes fat burning and minimizes oxidative stress on the body. Since our heart rates are unique to an individual, your workouts should also be tailored to maximize the tremendous anti-aging benefits. Train smarter, not harder. Weight loss (or weight management) is a fantastic motivation to exercise, but why not accomplish more with your weight loss or body mass goals to better enhance your overall physiological health. Remember, our health is more than just numbers on the scale or how our clothing fits.
Where & How Much for the Metabolic Fingerprint?
For more information on a testing center offering The Method’s Metabolic Fingerprint click here. The cost of the test runs between $225 and $300. The testing process is led by a licensed Method CRA-Test® trainer and takes about 40-60 minutes with consultations. Once you have tested, you will receive your results immediately and you will be given a report that will interpret what your metabolic fingerprint numbers mean and how they relate to your personal goals. All the Illinois Bone and Joint Clinics are using this test to assist with rehabilitating ortho patients. It is also being used as weight loss tool since so Edwards and his team have led highly successful case. Additionally, the test is being used by professional athletic teams (NHL and NFL) to reveal athletic potential and improve training with the goal of reducing injuries for professional athletes.
Written By Susan Shen and Katalin Ogren