Exercise mimetics, fasting mimetics

I have spent a lot of time following the latest research on all sorts of interventions to increase lifespan and healthspan. I am now ready to say that virtually all this time has been wasted.

I guess it hasn’t technically been wasted, in that I’ve come to understand the latest research, and that’s of some value. But when it comes to choosing interventions that might help me, it turns out there’s nothing new beyond the obvious healthy lifestyle recommendations of 20 or even 30 years ago.

There are a bunch of chemical interventions that are interesting—they have definitely been shown to increase healthspan and lifespan in animal models, and have had some very promising results in humans as well. However, it is becoming clear that virtually all of them are either exercise mimetics or fasting mimetics—drugs that activate (some of) the metabolic pathways activated by exercise or fasting.

From a public health perspective, perhaps this is of some interest. Given a population of sedentary people with poor diets it’s easy to foresee a mix of these drugs delaying mortality and morbidity—people will live longer, and during their extended lifespan they’ll have less disability, less illness, and require less medical care.

From my perspective though, it’s completely uninteresting. I would much rather just exercise than take a drug that provides a subset of the benefits of exercise. Similarly, I’d much rather just eat good food than take a drug that simulates some of the effects of doing so.

Do you want to live a long, healthy life? Here’s an plan for you:

  1. Eat a whole-food diet that’s low in sugar and refined carbs. Try to include a couple servings of salmon (or other fatty fish) per week.
  2. Finish supper at least 3 hours before bedtime, and make sure there’s at least 12 (preferably 13 or 14) hours between the end of supper and the start of breakfast.
  3. Get at least 2 resistance workouts a week where you exercise your big muscles (glutes, quads, hamstrings, pecs, traps, lats) until they are briefly very tired.
  4. Get at least 2 endurance workouts a week where you spend an hour or so exercising at a pace that’s a little more intense than a brisk walk.
  5. Get 1 workout a week where you raise your heart rate to 80% of its maximum for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and then repeat for a total of 10 rounds.
  6. Spend some time outdoors at least several times a week.
  7. Sleep until you wake up naturally almost every night.

That’s it. Unless you are sick with a diagnosed condition for which there is treatment, I very much doubt there is anything modern medicine—or even bleeding-edge longevity research—can do for you that you won’t get from this plan.

I’m sure my brother is very amused that it has taken me this long to come to this conclusion.

The faux social interactions of social media

I just finished reading Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, which is excellent: Highly recommended.

One point the book makes is that the faux social interactions of social media—clicking “likes” or whatever—produce a limited subset of the effects in your brain of having actual social interactions. You feel like you’ve connected with someone and they feel like they’ve gotten some social support, but it’s largely a sham: Neither of you gains the real benefits of having an actual social connection. But since you feel as if you have, your impulse to make real connections with people is reduced.

The material presented in the book was convincing enough that I’ve decided to pare down my faux social interactions, starting with two changes.

First, I’m going to largely quit clicking “like” on posts. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like them (or that I don’t like you). It just means that I’m trying to deprioritize faux social interactions in favor of real ones.

Second, I’ve removed the Facebook bookmark from the list of tabs I keep open all the time. I’m not deleting my Facebook account, nor am I avoiding all Facebook interactions, but I’m no longer going to have a Facebook tab open all the time.

I’ll still open Facebook from time to time—perhaps as often as daily—because so many people use it as their primary way to keep in touch. But it’s never been a good way to keep in touch with me (I use it primarily as a way to share links to blog posts like this one), and it’s about to get worse.

This is not going to be the end of the changes I make to start favoring genuine social interactions over fake ones—I want to write a longer post about my reactions to the Digital Minimalism book—but I wanted to mention this now (and share this post on Facebook) in case people would otherwise be puzzled by the changes they see in my behavior.