Oh, I also have a sauna. And if I have enough time I’ll do that, too.
How early do you have to wake up to fit all this in?
Not too early, probably 6:30 a.m. or 7. It takes me about an hour and a half, two hours.
After breakfast, what do your eating habits look like? Three square meals a day? More of a grazer?
I’m not a grazer. Basically. I follow a Pegan diet, which is a plant-rich diet—not “plant-based”; it’s a lot of colorful, phytochemically rich vegetables; nuts and seeds; and protein. A lunch, for example, could be a big salad with avocado, arugula. I put in toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts. I’ll throw in a can of wild salmon or I’ll have a can of mackerel or a couple sardines on the side; tomatoes, olives, and olive oil. I call it a “fat salad,” because it’s lots of good fats. I eat very low-glycemic, so low starch and sugar.
You mentioned the TB12 workout—do you have an overarching philosophy when it comes to exercise?
I’ve always been active my whole life—I run, bike, play tennis, ski, swim, do yoga. But at core, there’s four elements of fitness: cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, and stability. And stability is really important, I think; as we get older, we lose stability and lose balance. That’s why the resistance bands are really good: They pull you off kilter and off center and you constantly have to stabilize. And I noticed when I started doing that [workout], I was able to run down mountains and jump on rock to rock and not feel tentative. I felt like I was 20 again, which was amazing.
I think if exercise were a drug, it would be the most powerful drug ever invented on the planet. It has the ability to regulate almost every physiological function for the better and to avert many of the chronic diseases that we have, from heart disease to diabetes, cancer, dementia. [Exercise] is incredibly important for mental health, mood, or your microbiome, your immune system, and it regulates many of the pathways that are incredibly powerful for longevity…Essentially there are these longevity switches [in the body], and exercise is the way to turn a lot of them on. It’s not the only way—it can be managed by diet, supplements, or phytochemicals, sometimes even medication—but I think exercise is essential. The older you get, the more important it is.
Your most recent book is called Young Forever—is longevity something that’s at the forefront of your mind when you’re planning your wellness routine?
To me, it’s not about living to be 120. It’s about feeling great now. And the consequence of doing things that make you feel great now is that you’re likely to live a more disease-free, longer life and to get your health span to equal your lifespan.
Your health span is how many years of your life you’re healthy, and your lifespan is how many years you’re alive. So most of us spend the last 20 percent of our lives in poor health. I think people don’t realize that that’s optional and that the marginal decade of our life is not something we have to all endure. We can live long, healthy lives and then just die. And the data is pretty clear on this. There’s a famous study from James Fries from Stanford, where he looked at the habits of a large cohort of people and he found that those who kept their ideal body weight, didn’t smoke, and exercised lived long healthy lives and died quickly, painlessly, and cheaply, whereas those who didn’t follow those behaviors had sort of long, slow declines and died long, expensive, painful deaths.
Is there a common misconception that people have about longevity? What do people get wrong about aging?
I think the thing that most people get wrong is—and it’s no fault of their own, because it’s what we see all around us and we think it’s normal—that decline and disease and decrepitude and frailty are normal consequences of getting older. They’re actually not. They’re a sign of disease. And the truth is that most of what we see in this country, and increasingly around the world, is abnormal aging. [It is possible to] stay fit and healthy and spry well into your late 80s, 90s, and even beyond.