The Most Potent Longevity Drug

Jul 4, 2023

 by Stephen Conca

The Most Potent Longevity Drug - Part 1: Exercise


We are at the 1/2 way mark of 2023.  There's still time to help yourself or help someone you care about.  


Hear me out first :)  I may be preaching to the quire but there is more to come so I wanted to lay the foundation here. 


"I never won a fight in the ring, I always won it in preparation." - Muhamad Ali


There is so much conflicting advice from experts touting which mode of exercise is better (cardio, weights, HIIT, Zumba, Yoga, etc. Most people can’t figure out what to do in the gym and why?


There is a problem where we want to turn everything into a religious war (cardio vs. weights) vegan vs. meat eaters, and you can see where I'm going. 


The lens through which we look at exercise is too narrow.  


Exercise has the greatest impact on how you will live out the rest of your life. Read that again.


Even a minimal amount of exercise can lengthen your life by several years and delays the onset of chronic diseases across the board.  


Exercise extends health span and lifespan. 


Exercise not only slows and can reverse physical decline but it also slows or reverses cognitive decline as well.


If you are going to take one thing away from my posts over the next few weeks, it's that you need to start exercising.  If you are exercising, then you may need to rethink your approach. 


If you’re not exercising yet, not alone. 77% of the population is not.  Right now is the time to change. 


Even a little bit of daily activity is beneficial.  Going from no exercise to just 90min / week or 12-15 min/day can reduce your chance of dying from all causes by 14%


Most people don’t understand what a profound impact exercise has on their health.  People who exercise on a regular basis live a decade longer than those who don’t. 


Good news - If you aren't exercising now the benefits start immediately with any movement north of 0.


Current U.S. government activity guidelines suggest that active adults engage in 30 min of moderate aerobic intensity 5 x’s/week or 150min in total supplemented with 2 days of weight training targeting all major muscle groups. 


So why is exercise so important?


The more we do the better we will do.


I will cover this in a more practical approach in the next post so anyone can follow it and begin to improve their health.  Here's a brief summary that we will build upon, 


As you know, exercise plays a huge role in cardio-respiratory fitness.  We won't get too technical here,  but a person's cardio-respiratory fitness can be measured In VO2max.  This is the amount of oxygen your body can utilize while exercising.  


A simple example is walking.  Someone can walk for a while and utilize oxygen to fuel the muscles.  Take that same person and have them begin to walk up a few flights of stairs.  Their respiration increases and their legs start to burn.  They no longer are able to utilize oxygen efficiently, so they have to switch over to another energy system. Legs burn to fatigue, they are out of breath and have to stop.  


Without getting too geeky in the science, the takeaways are important: 


A 2018 study in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) followed 120K people. Those who had a higher VO2 max were associated with lower mortality rates across the board 


A smoker has a 40% greater risk of all-cause mortality. 


The same JAMA study found that someone with a below average VO2max for age and sex that is between 25-50%  is double the risk of all-cause mortality compared to someone in the 75-97.6 percentile. 


This is shocking:   Poor cardio fitness carries a greater risk of all-cause mortality than smoking. 


Someone in the bottom quartile of VO2 is 4x’s more likely to die from all-cause mortality. 


So the upside is that just going from the least fit to just below average means you have just cut your chance of death by nearly 1/2 


A study 2022 Journal of Cardiology backs up the 2018 JAMA study. They looked at 750K us veterans aged 30-95,

both sexes and all races, and found the same result.  Someone in the least fit, bottom 25% had a 4.09x greater risk of all-cause mortality


Being unfit cared for the greatest risk of any other of the cardio risk factors examined.


There are always factors to causality and observational data, however, there are 5 actors that influence the power of these studies: These factors represent 5 of the 9 criteria defined in 1930’s by Austin Bradford Hill, one of the pioneers of epidemiology studies. 


  1. The data sample is very large
  2. The results are very similar in other studies of similar populations
  3. There is a dose-dependent response.  The more the better
  4. Known Biological effects given the mechanisms of exercise that influence health span and life span.
  5. Virtually all data on exercise in humans supports that it is beneficial to improve health.


In the next post, I'm going to lay out the steps to help you take a different approach to your exercise and improve your cardio-respiratory fitness.