Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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Category: Self-Experimentation

How to Increase Your Heart Rate Variability

Last week, I introduced the concept of heart rate variability – the variation of heart beat to beat intervals. Far from the metronome we might assume it to be, the healthiest heart beat follows a fractal pattern, with varying lengths of time separating each pulse. A higher heart rate variability (HRV) suggests a relaxed, low-stress physiological milieu, while a lower HRV indicates a need for recovery, rest, and sleep. That’s why athletes use HRV monitoring to plan their workouts and rest periods, PR attempts and deload weeks: it eliminates the guesswork. Even if you’re not an athlete, the HRV is a strong diagnostic biomarker for general health and resiliency. Today, we’ll be exploring 16 ways to increase it.

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Have You Checked Your Heart Rate Variability Lately?

People are always looking for that one biomarker to rule them all, the number on a paper that absolutely determines your health, longevity, fitness level, sex appeal, happiness, and productivity. Throughout the years, it’s bounced around as researchers think they’ve found “IT” – from cholesterol to LDL to BMI to small dense LDL to CRP to blood pressure to pulse rate and back again – but we always come up wanting. The “one biomarker” never pans out because biology is complex and irreducible to a single number.

However, there is one biomarker showing promise as a broad indicator of overall health and fitness: heart rate variability (HRV), or the variation in the intervals between heart beats. If your heart beats like a metronome, with intervals of identical length between each pulse, you have low heart rate variability; this is “bad.” If your heart beats follow a more fractal pattern, with beat intervals of varying length, you have high heart rate variability; this is “good.”

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Rajio Taiso: Why You Should Start Doing Light Morning Workouts

In the early 1920s, MetLife Insurance sponsored daily 15 minute calisthenics programs to be broadcast over the radio to American audiences in an effort to make them healthier and fitter. It didn’t catch on here, but visiting Japanese officials loved the idea enough to bring it back to Japan. To commemorate the coronation of Emperor Hirohito in 1928, Japanese public radio began daily broadcasts of rajio taiso, or “radio calisthenics.” Every morning Japanese citizens, young and old, would gather to perform a short circuit of dynamic stretches, joint mobility drills, and bodyweight exercises in time to broadcasted piano music. Participation has dropped off in recent years, but even today about 20% of the Japanese population (and three quarters of elementary school students) still does the daily routine, which has remained unchanged for almost a century.

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Self-Experiment: No Alcohol for 45 Days and Counting

I’ve always had gut issues – IBS and related challenges. In fact, the diarrhea, bloating, gut pain, gas, and the assorted other embarrassing IBS symptoms that make life truly difficult are what led me to this lifestyle. Getting rid of grains at age 47 was life-changing, and even as gluten deniers are becoming more vocal I will adamantly stand by that shift as one of the most important Primal behaviors anyone can adopt. I went from waking up everyday in pain most of my life, having to be continuously aware that an episode might occur at any time, and planning my daily excursions away from home based on where I knew there might be a (satisfactory) public bathroom, to feeling freedom from that cramping and pain, and being able to travel without trepidation. Adding probiotics like Primal Flora helped “regulate” me even more.

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How to Conduct a Self Experiment: Resistant Starch

It’s been well over a year since we last did a self experimentation post, and I think it’s time for one on that current sensation: resistant starch. Whether you’re an ardent low-carber, a carnivore, or a safe starch fanatic with dried up rice stuck to your lapel, the allure of improved sleep, better glucose tolerance, lower blood sugar, and solid digestion is universal. I mean, sure, there are probably some fetishists who prefer difficult toilet experiences and creative types who thrive on the weird headspace created by sleep deprivation, but the effects often attributed to resistant starch consumption are objectively beneficial.

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Movement, Exercise, and Training: Getting the Results You Want

The trouble with talking about fitness on a public forum read by millions and making recommendations based on the scientific literature is that we’re all different. I know, I know, you’ve read/seen Fight Club, and Tyler Durden says that we’re not all unique snowflakes, but he’s wrong on this one. We come from different environments and backgrounds and we all have different goals and desires and abilities. There is no one training plan, exercise program, or piece of fitness advice that is perfect for everyone, equally. Each person must find what works for them.

So when I tried to impart a universally-sound fitness principle, perhaps the only truly universally-applicable one of all – the best exercise is the one you will do consistently – a few people were skeptical. I understand, but my contention stands: single workouts don’t get you stronger or fitter, after all. Adaptations to cumulative workouts performed on a consistent basis get you stronger and fitter. And the greatest exercise won’t work for you unless you do it. The point of last week’s post wasn’t to suggest that doing what you enjoy necessarily leads to peak fitness, just that consistency is key when it comes to fitness.

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