Longevity is not just about living longer, it’s about living healthier for longer and maintaining an active and satisfying lifestyle well into old age. One thing that can get in the way of this is Metabolic Syndrome or the development of metabolic derangement, a precursor to many chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. As part of a holistic approach, exercises for longevity are one way to ensure health and wellbeing all throughout your life.
But here’s the thing, not all exercises for longevity are suitable for everyone. If you’re in good shape, the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercises (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercises) per week. However, if your body is fragile or in a weakened state, for example, you suffer from adrenal fatigue or your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response system is dysregulated, you’ll need to be careful. You can and should engage in exercises for longevity, but only those suitable for your condition.
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is caused by chronic stress and is, therefore, a relatively common condition—it is estimated that over 80% of the population will suffer from adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives. The condition develops as a result of overworked adrenal glands, which produce the main anti-stress hormone, cortisol. Over time, your adrenals will become exhausted and your cortisol levels will drop.
Since the NEM stress response attempts to compensate for this loss of adrenal function, the circuits that comprise this system can become overloaded. The hormonal and bioenergetics circuits are intricately linked and may become dysregulated, leading to metabolic disruptions. At this point, Metabolic Syndrome is a risk and other issues can arise including insulin resistance and hypoglycemia, as well as problems controlling blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
The cardionomic circuit—regulated by your adrenal glands, the central nervous system (CNS), and the autonomic nervous system (ANS)—is another important circuit that is positively influenced by exercises for longevity. As part of the fight-or-flight response, the role of the cardionomic circuit is to prepare your heart, blood vessels, and lungs to supply more oxygenated blood.
When your cardionomic circuit is disrupted, perhaps due to overstimulation by stress hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, or adrenaline, you can experience symptoms like dizziness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and shortness of breath. Metabolic imbalances may follow such as sugar cravings, exercise intolerance, fatigue, and hypoglycemia.
When your cardionomic circuit is constantly switched on, your metabolism can become exhausted since it cannot rest and repair. Eventually, if the cycle of cardionomic dysfunction continues, you could end up with heart and blood vessel damage.
Furthermore, if you do nothing to prevent this, cardionomic circuit dysfunction will likely progress, leading to more challenging symptoms, like postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS), premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), atrial fibrillation, panic attacks, adrenaline rushes, postural orthostatic tachycardia, and severe insomnia. In such cases, exercising including exercises for longevity can worsen your condition.
Interestingly, over-exercising, as well as acute emotional or physical trauma or antibiotic therapy, can cause acute bouts of cardionomic circuit dysfunction. In addition, over-exercising can trigger an irregular heart rate.
So, what do you do if you want to holistically improve your health and wellbeing, but are suffering from adrenal fatigue and cardionomic circuit dysfunction? Should you avoid exercising altogether? The answer is no, but you should definitely choose exercises to suit your condition.
Exercising is an important part of any health or recovery plan. But doing the right kind of exercises at the right time—and at the right intensity and frequency—is key. Just because you’re not reaching a full 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week doesn’t mean you’re not getting any benefit.
In fact, with advanced stages of AFS or cardionomic circuit dysfunction, we recommend you begin with a very basic and extremely gentle exercise—adrenal breathing. The reason is that if you exercise beyond the tolerance level of your adrenals, you can actually put more pressure on your already exhausted glands causing them to crash. This could make your adrenal fatigue recovery time even longer, plus you’ll feel terrible.
Start small. Just a few minutes a day is perfect and always pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after exercising. Keep a log. Stick to adrenal breathing and avoid yoga breathing or pranayama, as this can actually trigger an adrenaline release.
Once you’re feeling a little better, you can progress to adrenal yoga, which is very gentle and doesn’t include most of the usual asanas, or postures, that can be challenging if you’re in a weakened state. Savasana, or corpse pose, is one of the more calming and relaxing poses of adrenal yoga because it is safe and helps relieve stress.
The most important aspect of adrenal breathing and adrenal yoga is to remain aware of what you’re doing so that you can sync your breath with your body. This can help relax your mind relax and give you more control over your emotions, which is crucial to your recovery from adrenal fatigue and cardionomic circuit dysfunction, and longevity in general. If you can’t tolerate adrenal yoga just yet, start with some restorative exercises.
If your recovery is going well and you’d like to increase your workout intensity a bit, up to 30 minutes of brisk walking per day is one of the greatest exercises for longevity. It’s easy and convenient, and if you add nature to the mix, you’ll get even more benefits. Just be careful not to go overboard. Always bear in mind that feeling good during and immediately after exercise is often due to adrenaline and the “high” can be addictive. In particular, those suffering from AFS tend to feel good while exercising but crash shortly afterward, sometimes requiring days to recuperate. Always be on the alert and listen to your body so you can stick to the proper intensity and frequency.
Eventually, as your body gets stronger, you’ll be able to add a little bit of core training and more cardio that can help you get into better shape and improve your overall health. But again, try not to jump the gun and don’t participate in high-intensity workouts until you’re ready. Slow and steady wins the race and you’ll enjoy the journey much more.
If you’re unsure what type of exercises are suitable for you, it’s best to seek the guidance of a healthcare professional with a solid understanding of adrenal fatigue and the NEM stress response. That way, you can ensure a strong and long-lasting recovery.
© Copyright 2015-2019 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
If you want to live a long healthy life, being active is a key ingredient. But not all workouts are created equal. The best exercises for longevity are the ones that suit your current state of health and doing the wrong exercises can actually set you back.