“Wisdom comes with winters.” — Oscar Wilde
You can put off 70% of the normal problems of aging, including weakness, sore joints, bad balance, and eliminate 50% of serious illness and injury.
You can get functionally younger each year.
That’s the new science of aging.
In the book Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond, Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge explain our new understanding of the science of aging and the biology of growth.
Inflammation and Repair
Your circulatory system carries a lot of information, may that you might imagine.
“You have two information superhighways in your body: your nervous system and your circulatory system. It may come as a surprise that your bloodstream carries information but it does. Plasma, in particular, is a complex, living river of thousands of chemicals and proteins signaling and controlling virtually every aspect of your body: growth, decay, mood, immune function, cancer surveillance, fat metabolism, sexuality, joint health … and it all operates through inflammation and repair.”
Exercise Triggers Inflammation and Repair
Exercise damages your cells, which starts inflammation. When you do enough damage, you trigger the repair cycle.
“Here’s how it works: When your cells sense damage, say from exercise, they automatically release chemicals to start the inflammation — to set the stage for repair. A few of those chemicals leak into the bloodstream, and those few molecules draw white blood cells to the injured area the way blood in the water draws sharks from miles around. After the inflammatory cycle has done its demolition work, the white blood cells go away, leaving behind a clean, fresh surface so the construction crews can get to work on the growth part of the cycle.”
C-6 is Decay and C-10 is Growth
C-6 is the master chemical in your body for inflammation, which is effectively “decay.” C-10 on the other hand is your body’s master chemical for “growth,” When you release enough C-6, you trigger C-10.
“Cytokine-6, or C-6 for short, is the master chemical for inflammation (decay), and cytokine-10, or C-10, is the master chemical for repair and growth, C-6 is produced in both the muscle cells and the bloodstream in response to exercise, and C-10 is produced in response to C-6. This is your body’s brilliant mechanism for coupling decay and growth. C-6 actually triggers the production of C-10. Decay triggers growth.”
The Power of Exercise to Change Your Whole Body
You can change your whole body, by changing the chemistry, through hard exercise.
“You have 660 muscles, which make up almost 50 percent of your lean body weight. Those 75 or 100 pounds of muscle are a massive reservoir of C-6 and C-10, a massive reservoir of potential youth if you do your part. Exercise triggers repair, renewal, and growth by producing C-6. All forms of aerobic exercise product C-6 in logarithmic proportion to both the duration and intensity of exercise. In marathon runners, the level of C-6 rises a hundredfold by the end of the race. It is an automatic measure of how much exercise you do, how much inflammation you cause and how much growth you will experience. In other words, how much C-10 will be released.”
C-10 is Automatically Turned on by C-6
The big idea is that inflammation controls growth. But you need to trigger enough inflammation.
“But growth is blueprints, and master carpenters, and electricians, all controlled by C-10. … The most important thing to understand about C-10 is that is automatically turned on by C-6. Inflammation controls growth; that’s the critical concept. C-6 peaks right after the marathon and turns on the cytokines that control repair, which peak an hour or so later and which stay at higher levels for hours after exercise, repairing your body.”
Exercise Changes Your Blood Flow
You can directly influence the flow of blood through your muscles through rigorous exercise.
“At rest, only 20 percent of your blood flow moves through your muscles; in a trained athlete, that rises with exercise, to 80 percent. Picture it: torrents, rivers of blood flooding through your muscles with exercise, picking up the cytokines, the messages of inflammation and repair, of growth and healing, and taking them to every corner of your body. From the top of your head to the tips of your toes. From your heart to your prostate, fingers to knees. Every joint, every bone, every organ, every tiny part of your magnificent brain gets its bath of C-6, and then the wonderful, rejuvenating C-10 each time you sweat. That’s the right balance, good decay triggering growth.”
Only Hard Exercise Triggers Enough C-6 to Trigger C-10 (Growth)
We’re constantly creating C-6 and decay, but not enough to trigger C-10 and growth, unless we push our bodies hard enough.
“This is important: not all decay is good, and cytokine-6 does not always trigger the production of cytokine-10. When we are sedentary, the devil does indeed find work for idle muscles. There is a steady slow drip of inflammation, but not enough to turn on C-10. That explosion of growth comes only with the surge of C-6 you get with exercise.”
Chronic Stress Produces a Trickle of Background C-6 (Decay)
Emotional stress in our day, eats away at us. It’s like death by a 1,000 paper cuts, without enough stress to trigger growth. Unless we exercise.
“Chronic emotional stress also produces a trickle of background C-6. Loneliness, boredom, apathy, worry — hiss-bump. … When you exercise, you get a high-enough level of C-6 to trigger C-10. You get to play the music of growth. It’s not hard, you just need to become a daily C-10 guy. Exercise every day, at least enough to sweat, and you’ll be fit, guaranteed. You’ll be able to hike up mountains at eighty, ski the black diamonds at seventy, and outrun your kids at fifty, but more than that, you’ll be healthy, more relaxed, more optimistic. Why? Because C-10 will automatically flood your body an hour after exercise like a sprinkler coming on at sundown.”
C-6 and C-10 are Metaphors for the Broader Concept
The main thing to keep in mind is the idea that decay triggers growth, and that the key is to generate enough C-6 to trigger C-10.
“C-6 and C-10 are just shorthand for chemical cascades involving hundreds of proteins in a dance of such complexity that we are just beginning to understand the details. Cell biologists will also tell you that inflammation is just cleaning up the debris caused by programmed erosion. Since the fine details of the mechanisms that regulate this will take fifty years to understand fully, we’ve used C-6 and C-10 as metaphors for the broader concept.”
The Good Stress of Exercise
Exercise is good stress, simply because it triggers enough C-6 to trigger C-10 and kick-start our cycles of growth and repair.
“Researchers gave 10,000 men two stress tests, five years apart. At the end of the study, the fittest men had a third the mortality of the least fit. Think about that: one-third the mortality. And even more encouraging, those who had been sedentary at the first stress test but fit by the second — those who had turned their lives around in hose five years – cut their mortality roughly in half. Cut your risk of dying by half … it’s hard to argue with that. Even more encouraging, , the benefit was on a continuum, so getting into better and better shape cut mortality more and more. For every additional minute the guys could go no the stress test, there was an 8 percent reduction in mortality. That’s the good stress of exercise: inflammation leading inexorably to growth.”
Exercise really is the fountain of youth, and now you know why whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
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Image by Frank Kovalchek.