For more on anti-aging and post-workout recovery strategies, check out my FUELED Wellness + Nutrition podcast where I’m joined by Nicholas Goyeneche, MD, triple board-certified physician who specializes in the unique field of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ochsner Health.
I love when a treatment or protocol that we know is effective for one issue is shown to be beneficial for another – it’s like taking multi-tasking or habit-stacking to the next level, without even trying.
This is the case with some of the emerging anti-aging science: Strategies that are effective for post-workout recovery are now showing promise in helping us slow down or even reverse the aging processes.
We know that optimal recovery from exercise is integral to the training process – and we also know that aging feels like it can negatively affect this recovery.
One common factor is inflammation. While some inflammation (for healing immediately post-workout or after an acute injury) is a good thing, chronic inflammation is not.
Another common factor is the type of information in our body’s cells, including genetic and epigenetic information. Genetics are what we’re born with, these are pretty much pre-determined for us; epigenetic information determines how our genes are expressed.
Science has shown us that when we influence these epigenetic factors with lifestyle approaches like physical movement, intermittent fasting and optimal sleep, it can translate to improved health and longevity.
There is also some evidence that some of the very therapies traditionally used to enhance post-workout recovery may activate some of these same epigenetic pathways.
Treatments like cryotherapy (cold therapy) and infrared (heat) therapy, for example, are tried and true approaches for sports performance recovery – we’ve read about professional athletes incorporating these practices into their training and recovery regimens for years – and these strategies may also help us to slow down or potentially even reverse the aging process.
3 STRATEGIES BACKED BY SCIENCE
Cryotherapy, including cold water immersion and cryo chambers at temperatures well below zero degrees Fahrenheit have been shown to have beneficial effects on inflammation as well as cellular metabolism.
We’ve learned that our body fat isn’t just dormant. In fact, there are some beneficial aspects of fat – brown fat, in particular.
Compared to white fat (which is not desirable, especially when it’s around our organs), brown fat is dense with mitochondria, our cells’ energy powerhouses. As we age, we become less efficient at making brown fat. Cryotherapy, or exposure to cold, appears to effectively increase the quantity and metabolic activity of this brown fat.
While exact protocols vary, it’s safe to say that adding some type of cold therapy at least several times a week may be beneficial. Interestingly, the best time for that cold dip or cryo chamber is not immediately after exercise, since buffering post-workout inflammation may actually hinder our body’s response and recovery. Instead, wait at least several hours post-workout before incorporating cryotherapy.
Heat Therapy via sauna, steam or infrared radiation is linked to a host of benefits ranging from nerve stimulation and regeneration to wound healing and even cancer treatments. And Contrast Therapy is a blend of both, alternating cold therapy with heat therapy.
Let’s be clear, none of these strategies are intended to be miracle treatments. And these do not replace the core fundamentals of getting sufficient rest, fueling and hydration. But each fall into the category of ‘every little bit helps,’ giving us that extra edge that can enhance our recovery, our athletic performance, and just may help to slow down or reverse at least part of the aging process.
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com.