A look at the impact of exercise on longevity

A look at the impact of exercise on longevity

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It's no secret: physical activity has beneficial effects on overall health. Numerous studies and scientific works confirm the unique therapeutic benefits of exercise on quality of life, cardiovascular health and longevity. We might therefore believe that the health effects of exercise are proportional to the amount of exercise performed. However, recent studies suggest that chronic excessive endurance exercise can have a negative impact on longevity, notably due to deleterious effects on cardiovascular health.

To date, the optimal dose of exercise to promote longevity is unknown and may vary between individuals, but current studies show that 2.5 to 5 hours/week of moderate to vigorous physical activity provides maximum health benefit. In some cases, more than 10 hours/week could even reduce these benefits. These results are encouraging in that they make physical activity accessible as a tactic to improve longevity. No need to commit to a marathon program to reap the benefits!

Peter Attia: Longevity expert

Peter Attia is a physician who specializes in the applied science of longevity. In his practice, he has a keen interest in nutritional interventions, exercise physiology, sleep physiology, emotional and mental health and pharmacology, in order to increase lifespan, not forgetting life quality. Peter also hosts The Drive , a weekly podcast dedicated to longevity and everything related to it.

In a recent episode of his podcast, Peter Attia explains why training in zones 2 (aerobic) and 5 (anaerobic) is important. It also provides an overview of VO2 max and describes the most effective methods for practicing these exercise modalities.

The structure of training for longevity

As everyone is unique, with different limitations, it is wise to focus on the structure of your training program rather than fixed modalities when planning it. According to Peter Attia, the optimal training structure is made up of 4 components:

  1. Stability
  2. Strength
  3. Aerobic efficiency
  4. Anaerobic performance


Good stability is essential for healthy movement, athletic performance and reducing the risk of injury. It comes mainly from our core strength (lumbopelvic region) which connects the upper and lower parts of our body and allows them to coordinate and transfer load effectively. It is suggested to train this component every day in order to achieve optimal stability.


Strength is perhaps the most intimidating of the four components, especially to people who are not used to training it. In its simplest form, strength is the use of muscles to generate work. Besides, if you want to live a long and healthy life, maintaining your muscle mass must be a priority. It is suggested to plan 3 training sessions per week for this component, prioritizing squats and heavy deadlifts which allow you to mobilize significant muscle mass.

Aerobic efficiency (Zone 2)

Training this component involves performing the aerobic exercise at an average pace, so that your body's energy needs can be met by the oxygen you breathe.

Zone 2 training is achieved when we perform regular activity maintaining a particular heart rate for longer periods of time (3 hours per week, spread over 3-4 sessions). It may include walking, rowing, swimming, the elliptical, or a stationary bike, done at an intensity that allows you to maintain a conversation with someone.

Anaerobic performance (Zone 5)

When you exercise at such a speed that your body doesn't have enough oxygen to keep up (and uses other means of producing energy), it is anaerobic exercise.

Zone 5 is the high intensity zone. The efforts are of near-maximal or maximum intensity, and last only a few seconds. This means that your heart rate may not have a chance to respond to the brief, sudden burst of intense activity. However, it may well reach 100% of your maximum heart rate once you stop sprinting.


Peter Attia offers a training structure made up of 4 components in order to optimize longevity rather than performance. Exercise can be considered the most accessible and effective tool for extending the quality and perhaps the number of our life years.

A person wishing to get into shape or form new training habits should still exercise caution, especially with Zone 5 training, and should consult an experienced kinesiologist or trainer to avoid overtraining and health problems. which could result if she is not familiar with physical activity.

And of course, this recommendation must be reviewed for very active people or for high-level athletes.

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O'Keefe, Evan L et al. “Training for Longevity: The Reverse J-Curve for Exercise.” Missouri medicine vol. 117.4 (2020): 355-361 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7431070/

Peter Attia, MD and Iñigo San Millán, Ph.D. https://peterattiamd.com/inigosanmillan/