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Habitual induction of hormesis for healthspan extension

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 11, 2021
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This idea describes a process and proposes the establishment of habits that induce hormesis throughout the day. The hypothesis here is that hormesis is beneficial for health preservation.

We currently don't have many tools to stave off the effects of aging. This may be one of them and it's free.

What is hormesis

In biology, hormesis is defined as an adaptive response of cells and organisms to moderate, short-lasting stress. Mild stress-induced activation of one or more intracellular pathways of the stress response. In other words, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

A few examples of stressors that induce hormetic responses:
  • physical exercise
  • dietary energy restriction
  • exposures to low doses of certain phytochemicals
  • ischemic preconditioning
  • cold water immersion / cold showers
How I imagine this works (hypothesis)

I haven't done enough research, so this comes purely from my imagination. I will update the section when I'm able to find good data. Here goes:

Entropy is a difficult concept to explain. I will let Richard Feynman do the talking. Basically, it makes sure that everything in the universe is always progressing towards decay. Everything we know, down to a single atom, is constantly and irreversably moving towards disorder. Cells are self-repairing chemical "machines". They have to be in exact order to function. To survive, they use the energy from their surroundings to counter the effects of entropy. Put simply, one of the universal forces is slowly tearing you apart and blending you with the surrounding while your cells are working hard to prevent that from happening.

Entropy is slow but persistent. Your cells are doing a good job defending you but they are not perfectly designed for the task. The cellular mechanisms might not be sensitive enough to detect all the atomic/molecular damages inflicted by entropy. Slowly, but surely the damages accumulate and mess with the cellular processes. We call this aging.

Hormesis to the rescue. When our cells detect that something is off, in addition to fixing it, they might also run some chemical processes that reset some crucial parts. Thereby unintentionally fixing additional damage that would otherwise go undetected.

An analogy for this would be - hearing an enemy aircraft in the night sky, not being able to pinpoint it but starting indiscriminate anti-aircraft fire in hopes of hitting the plane before it drops the bombs. Or a more suitable one: You own a small grocery store. You know that occasionally people steal something (entropy) but you don't have time to re-count all the inventory every day. Someday your shop gets vandalized (hormetic stressor). Afterwards you take the time to clean, re-count the inventory, put everything back in place, stock up and get your shop back to its optiomal condition.

The plan

In the conributions below I will make a list of all hormesis inducing stressors I can think of. I will then make it a habit to get myself into these hormesis inducing situations often and daily. I will use different stressors, throughout the day.

Hormesis app

Taken a step further, someone could create an app that schedules these events througout the day. Every now and then you would get a notification telling you that the time has come to get uncomfortable and choose one of the few suggested stressors to apply.

[1]Mattson, Mark P. “Hormesis defined.” Ageing research reviews vol. 7,1 (2008): 1-7. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2007.08.007 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2248601/


Creative contributions

Slackline or rope walking

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 11, 2021
If you have a place to put it, slackline gets you:
  • the prospect of imminent fall (potential hormetic stressor)
  • full body exercise while trying to maintain balance (hormetic stressor)
  • training your balance

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Spontaneous sprint to exhaustion

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 11, 2021
Oblige yourself to a certain daily quota of sudden, spontaneous sprints to exhaustion. Then whenever you get an opportunity, sprint like your life depends on it (imagine you are being chased). It only takes a minute.

It doesn't always have to be an actual sprint. If circumstances permit it can be a climb or crawl to exhaustion. It should be maximum speed and done like your life depends on it. But don't hurt yourself:)
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Hold your breath until it becomes really uncomfortable

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 11, 2021
Holding your breath might be one of the easiest hormetic stressors. It requires no tools or special conditions. Hormetic hypoxia, also known as the Wim Hof method.

This can be made into a game of self-challenge. Time yourself and try to beat your record by a little every day. I should do some research to figure out the upper limit that is pointless (and damaging) to go beyond. You win the game when that limit can be reached comfortably, every time.
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Manel Lladó Santaeularia
Manel Lladó Santaeularia3 years ago
With holding breathing, training makes the oxygen consumption way more efficient when you are holding your breath (and I imagine that also when you're not). It could potentially lead to an increase in red blood cells and thus better oxygen carrying capacity, or to an increased gas exchange at the lung level.

When talking about damaging limits, it looks like humans can actually hold their breath for a very long time with proper training (1). So it seems like you shouldn't worry too much as long as you are using proper technique and not overdoing it.

(1) https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2021/5/freediver-holds-breath-for-almost-25-minutes-breaking-record-660285
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Scare yourself

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 11, 2021
Have any phobias? Figure out a way to use them as hormetic stressor tools (without hurting yourself).

Example: If you were afraid of spiders, you could collect a few non-poisonous specimens in a tub. Cover it with cloth, make a hole in the cloth that fits your arm. Without looking, put your hand in and see if you can feel one of the spiders:)

Example: Afraid of heights? Find a location that you can climb to and look down into the abyss. Don't just climb it - race to the top and imagine you are being chased. That's 3 stressors combined: physical exercise, fleeing from an attacker, and finally looking your phobia in the eyes.
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Cold-to-hot and hot-to-cold showers

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 11, 2021
No shower should ever be started without ice-cold water hitting your most sensitive parts first (back, chest, head). Curse and swear if you have to, but do it anyway:)

This is where delayed temperature regulation of showers is a perfect feature. It generally takes a few seconds before the water temperature is the way you like it. Don't waste the initial seconds when the temperature is uncomfortable. Step right in.

When the temperature gets comfortable and you relax enough, flip the tab and go to the other extreme:)
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Get into fights (at a local fight club)

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 11, 2021
Join a local fight club and get into sparring fights. Even though the atmosphere is friendly and you won't likely get hurt, the feeling of your survival being uncertain can be real.

When you get comfortable fighting, have 2 or 3 opponents beat the crap out of you while you try to defend yourself.

You might not have time to do this daily, but consider doing it weekly at least.

Grappling is great too. The imminent threat of your opponent immobilizing and choking you out is a great hormetic stressor. It's also an exhausting exercise.
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Putting yourself into mentally uncomfortable situations

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 11, 2021
Could mentally uncomfortable situations induce a hormetic response? I think yes. They easily induce sweating, blushing, a fight-or-flight response.

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