What doesn't kill us makes us stronger
We've all heard this saying right? Well it turns out it's actually true. Our genetic code goes way back to cave man times and back then the most important factor in life was to keep our species procreating. That means having babies and being healthy enough to raise them and enable them to look after themselves. Hunger, cold and hot temperatures, learning a new skill for survival and pushing our physical capabilities were all challenges that our cave man ancestors had to face. Natural selection meant that those who got stronger with these stresses survived and their gene pool is what we're made of today. There is now countless research studies demonstrating the benefit that controlled stress (HORMETIC STRESS) has on our body and mind. On this page we will highlight the main areas of research.
DISCLAIMER - AS WITH ALL NEW CHANGES PLEASE CONSULT YOUR GP FIRST BEFORE TRYING THESE SUGGESTIONS. ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE ANY UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITIONS.
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Probably the most well known controlled stress to our bodies is exercise. When we exercise our muscles, tendons and joints go through something called protein synthesis and degradation. This basically means they wear and repair. If you get the balance right it means that you end up with a net gain of growth making the tissues more resilient to future stress.
You also release lots of anti-inflammatory compounds during exercise. One of the best types of exercise for boosting your resilience is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It has a particularly strong hormetic effect on your mitochondria (these are the energy generators within our cells)— they become more efficient to deal with the stress, which increases your energy production and slows down aging at the cellular level.
2. Intermittent fasting
Fasting is another hormetic stressor with huge benefits. It makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint — in times of famine, your body had to run at its peak efficiency, both to save energy and to increase your odds of finding or catching something to eat. And sure enough, research shows that fasting is amazing for you:
It helps you live longer
It makes your cells more resilient to damage
It protects your brain cells and improves cognitive function
It burns fat
The ideal window for fasting is between 12-48 hours. Shorter than that and you don’t see the above benefits as much. Longer, and you start to run into downsides, like dips in energy and muscle loss.
3. Extreme temperatures (Hot and Cold)
Intense hot and cold both increase oxidative stress levels in your body, but they trigger a whole cascade of positive changes, too. Just ask Wim Hof, who climbed Everest in shorts and shoes.
The secret to extreme temperature benefits lies in shock proteins. Your body produces these special proteins, appropriately named cold-shock proteins and heat-shock proteins, in response to sudden, extreme changes in temperature.
Shock proteins reverse damage from sudden changes in temperature, protect your cells, and trigger full-body repair. They’re a textbook hormetic response, and they make hot and cold exposure powerful biohacks.
Cold exposure, for example, makes your cells produce antioxidants system-wide, protecting your body from inflammation and damage and increases immunity. Heat exposure makes the proteins in your cells more resilient to stress and slows down cellular aging.
Cryotherapy: This is were you stand in a chamber that’s about -250°F for a few minutes.
Ice bath or a cold shower: It is advisable to start slow and build yourself up for example, start with 15 sec cold shower at the end of your hot one and build up 15 secs per week. A good time to aim for is around 2-3mins daily.
Sauna or a hot bath (warning - always test the water forst before entering to avoid burning): For heat, Stay in the heat for at least 20 minutes if you can, to really stimulate those heat-shock proteins.