1-Sentence-Summary: Outlive compiles the latest science on health and longevity, combined with practical advice anyone can use to live better today and beat four types of chronic disease with the four pillars of good health: exercise, nutrition, sleep, and emotional health.
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When I was in high school, I used to think the longer a piece of writing, the better. It wowed teachers. When writing for the general public, however, I later painfully learned that, actually, brevity is often bliss.
It’s always hard to admit you were wrong, but it’s even harder when you’re wrong about something you love. Like your work, for example. Commendably Dr. Peter Attia still has that skill. After all, how else can a doctor give us the latest and best advice?
Attia, for example, only recently realized how powerful exercise can be as a pseudo-drug. He also conceded that gene-altered crops might actually be bad for us, and that emotional health is just as important as the other three pillars of longevity: exercise, nutrition, and sleep.
Having long researched what makes us live longer and healthier, Attia compiles his best ideas into the #1 runaway bestseller Outlive. Here are 3 lessons from the 3 physical areas you can try immediately to tack on a few extra years to your life:
- Make a list of 10 movements you’d still like to be able to do at 100 for a simple exercise regimen.
- Use 1 of 3 food restrictions for a simple way to eat less.
- Try a sleep tracker for a week to learn more about how well you recover at night.
Let’s see what this longevity expert can teach us — and perhaps change our minds along the way!
Lesson 1: Create your “Centenarian Decathlon” for a sustainable approach to exercise.
The most important part about exercising is to go from zero workouts to getting any regular movement at all. In one study, participants going from inactive to 15 minutes of daily, moderate exercise saw a decline in overall mortality of 14%. That’s huge!
Unfortunately, most guidance around exercise is either too specific (“how to run your first half marathon”) or too generic (“just move more!”), Dr. Attia laments. That’s why he recommends you create your own “Centenarian Decathlon.” What’s that?
Your Centenarian Decathlon is a list of 10 exercises you’d like to still be able to perform when you’re 100 years old. What are they? They could range from walking for 10 minutes to taking 20 stairs in one go all the way to completing a 3-hour hike. Take some time to think of cool physical feats for a 1oo-year-old to accomplish, and write them down.
Regardless of whether your Centenarian Decathlon is ambitious or humble, the message is clear: Start working on those exercises now. After all, how can you expect to do something at 100 if you can’t do it at 40?
Pro tip: If you want to set more ambitious exercise goals, make up another decathlon for a closer decade of your life. If you’re 30 now, what would you like to be able to do at 50? And so on.
The exercise you dream of but never do is pointless. The exercise you do on a daily basis, no matter how small, is everything.
Lesson 2: Try eating less with 1 of 3 simple food restrictions.
While he no longer believes in multi-day water fasts, like he used to do on a monthly basis, Dr. Attia still thinks eating less is one of the easiest yet healthiest things we can do.
If you want to try eating a little less to see if you’ll feel better, more energetic, and maybe even lose some weight, Attia suggests picking one of three dead-simple restrictions:
- Caloric restriction, in which you count calories for all foods and then try to lower how many calories you consume.
- Dietary restriction, in which you only cut out specific foods.
- Time restriction, in which you only eat during certain time windows throughout the day.
The first option is highly flexible but requires lots of discipline. You’ll have to count and track calories and not cheat at the end of a successful day. Dietary restrictions are simple. Anyone can decide to cut out red meat, carbs, or sodas, but if we then overeat on other foods, the rule won’t work. A time restriction could be intermittent fasting, where you might only before 8 AM and after 8 PM, or a 24-hour-fast, but those also require not overeating while you can eat and getting enough protein.
Which one of these will work best for you? Only you can find out. Try them all for a week, then decide how it makes you feel and how you feel in general when eating a little less.
Lesson 3: Track your sleep for a week to see if you should change anything.
For Dr. Attia, a near-accident with his car after 60 hours of no sleep was the wake-up call he needed. But even if you get your 7.5-8.5 hours a night, there are likely still things you can improve. Are you also sleeping deeply? Do you wake up frequently throughout the night? A sleep tracker will tell you.
A few years ago, I used Sleep Cycle, which gave me some valuable data on my sleep patterns. The app also gently wakes you in a specified time window instead of just giving you a hard ring at, say, 8 AM.
Even if you decide to change nothing at all, using a sleep tracker for a week or a month is an interesting experiment I can recommend to almost anyone.
Learn when your sleep is strongest and what makes it weaker. Find out how caffeine, alcohol, and other substances might disrupt your recovery time. And start experimenting with blue light reduction, no-screen-time, and other techniques if you feel intrigued and want to do more.
Despite seeing exercise as the king of the 3 health levers, even Dr. Attia admits: “If your sleep is dysregulated, it’s almost impossible to overcome it with enough exercise or nutrition.”
Move a bit, eat a bit — or probably a bit less — and get quality rest at night. That’s all there is to health and longevity. Ultimately, none of us know how long we’ll live, but we can sure try to extend this beautiful game called life.
Every human is different, and every book about health is subjective. That said, in Outlive, Dr. Attia does a great job of compiling the latest science, combining it with his own ideas, and providing practical ways anyone can employ to live a little healthier today instead of tomorrow. The man talks calmly and makes reasonable arguments. If you’re looking for a down-to-earth source for good wellbeing advice, pick up this book.
Who would I recommend our Outlive summary to?
The 17-year-old fitness junkie, who got so deep into working out that he’s now in the gym six days a week, the 44-year-old executive, who’s on the verge of getting diabetes, and anyone who wants to live to 100.