Extending Your Lifespan: 10 Recommendations For Longevity with David Sinclair

When I first read David Sinclair’s book Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don’t Have To, I was a yoga teacher in my mid-20s. At that time, aging felt like something so far on the horizon that the book had few direct applications to my life. However, a lot has changed since 2019, its year of publication. There’s been a global pandemic, and on a personal level, I’ve evolved—I’ve given birth to two kids and turned 30. When I picked up the book again recently, its message hit much closer to home. 

Now, I’m well aware that 30 isn’t old, just as I understand the long-term benefits of parenthood on life expectancy. But deep in the weeds of raising my two little kids, I’ve become acutely aware of the toll parenting takes on my body. Research shows that for women, each pregnancy does in fact age us on a cellular level. From the hormonal shifts of postpartum to the sleepless nights, I can feel the physical exhaustion of being a mom. 

While I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything, I find myself questioning the impact of my lifestyle choices now more than ever. Suddenly, the recommendations to improve vitality outlined in Lifespan feel far more relevant for me in the whirlwind of parenting than they did when the book first hit the shelves. 

However, the real reason I picked up the book recently was not personal; it was out of curiosity to better understand the buzz around the many trends emerging from this branch of aging research, from intermittent fasting to cold plunges. Which trends are evidence-based? And what does the book actually say about how to live a longer, healthier life? This article explores the take-home concepts from the book. 

Is Aging Optional? A Brief Summary of Lifespan

David Sinclair’s Lifespan challenges the prevailing narrative of aging, urging us to reconsider our perception of aging and mortality. Central to Sinclair’s viewpoint are the notions of longevity genes and epigenetics, emphasizing the profound impact of lifestyle choices on aging. By weaving together compelling narratives from his own life and work with cutting-edge scientific research, Lifespan illuminates pathways to extend health span—the period of life free from age-related ailments. 

In the book, Sinclair offers strategies rooted in lifestyle changes like calorie restriction and intermittent fasting and the development of anti-aging therapies targeting cellular mechanisms. This book presents an optimistic vision of the future, where aging is not an inevitable fate but a condition we can stave off by lifestyle choices and pills.

Is Extending Lifespan Unnatural? Here’s What Sinclair Thinks

Diverse people in a Pranamasana pose

But that brings us to an important question: Should we intervene in aging? Sinclair points out that many of his critics find his work “unnatural,” a sentiment I feel may be echoed in the yoga community. Failing to accept the limitations of our physical bodies feels like it goes against everything yoga teaches, right? 

In Lifespan, Sinclair argues that for centuries, humans have been finding ways to extend lifespan in ways that are unnatural by certain standards, from improvements in sanitation to advancements in medicine and nutrition. Sinclair suggests that our focus shouldn’t be on whether these methods are “natural” but rather on whether they’re safe and ethical and make life better for everyone.

The research Sinclair discusses isn’t about defying nature; it’s about understanding how our bodies age and how we can stay healthy for longer. By digging into the science behind aging, researchers hope to improve our quality of life as we age. Sinclair believes this isn’t going against nature. Rather, it’s just the next step in ensuring we all live healthier, happier lives.

Lifespan’s 10 Key Recommendations for Longevity

Because I got so much out of reading Lifespan this second time around, I took notes on Sinclair’s various recommendations about what is known or emerging from research on increasing our health span. Here are a few key takeaways: 

  1. Consider Intermittent Fasting

    Woman and her yoga posture. Concept of fasting, intermittent fasting, diet, diet plan, proper nutrition, dream figure, fitness, healthy food.

    Intermittent fasting has been a popular topic in the media recently, but how much of the buzz is evidence-based? Intermittent fasting, similar to the yogic principle of tapas (austerity), may offer a potent tool to enhance cellular resilience and promote metabolic health. And yet, as someone who struggled with an eating disorder when I was younger, I can’t help but think intermittent fasting could be a slippery slope into unhealthy eating habits. 

    The way intermittent fasting is spoken about in the media feels reminiscent of any other dieting fad, and if approached in this light, it’s likely not going to be the silver bullet we may think it will be. But I think the point Sinclair is trying to make is that experiencing hunger without malnutrition stresses our bodies to an optimal level. Hunger without malnutrition is the key here. It’s unhealthy to starve ourselves, just as it’s unhealthy to overeat. 

    Clearly, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Sinclair fails to stress this fact enough in the book. Still, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, intermittent fasting is contraindicated for anyone under 18, anyone pregnant or breastfeeding, Type 1 diabetics, and those with a history of eating disorders. Still, if you don’t fall under those categories, intermittent fasting may be a promising way to improve cellular metabolism and slow aging.

  2. Eat a Plant-Based Diet to Improve your LifeSpan

    A nutritionist working in an office. Doctor writing diet plan on table and using vegetables. A plant-based diet for longer lifespan and overall health.

    Aside from all he says about intermittent fasting, much of Sinclair’s explanation of how to eat to improve health and vitality reminds me of Michael Pollan’s catchphrase in his book Food Rules: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” This is a simple way to say whole foods, plant-based diets, and avoiding overconsumption is best for our health and for slowing down aging. This messaging aligns with the yogic principle of ahimsa (non-harming) and reminds me of Ayurveda’s sattvic diet, which prioritizes whole, plant-based foods to nourish the body and promote longevity.

  3. Exercise As If It’s as Essential as Brushing Your Teeth

    Side view of the senior grey-haired woman practicing yoga at home. Concept of healthy aging and longevity.

    If you practice yogic asana regularly, you likely know how important the physical practice is to our well-being. Regular movement is an evidence-based way to extend our lives. Sinclair makes it clear that the amount of exercise you get is not as important as engaging in it regularly. You don’t need to run ultramarathons to improve your health, but getting your heart rate up regularly by moving in ways that feel good and bring joy can certainly help.  

  4. Minimize DNA Damage 

    Sunburns, pollutants, X-rays, and radiation are among the many sources of DNA damage we may encounter daily. It’s impossible to escape these sources of damage altogether. Still, we can try to minimize our exposure by wearing sun protection, pre-boarding at airports whenever available to avoid the scanners, and eating organically when it’s within our means.

  5. Enjoy All Seasons of Nature and Improve Lifespan

    Group Of Mature Female Friends On Outdoor Yoga Retreat concept of being outdoors, having friends, exercise all important to a longer lifespan.

    Similar to how exercise and hunger activate the survival pathways of our cells, getting outside of our comfortable temperature range (what Sinclair calls the “thermoneutral zone”) can provide the right stress level to improve vitality. And just as exercise and fasting are best done within reasonable levels, the benefits of braving the elements are best felt when we don’t go overboard. Hypothermia, frostbite, and heat exhaustion surely don’t extend lifespan. But a little bit of hot or cold exposure may if you approach them with your body’s limits in mind. 

    If you live in a region of the world that experiences all four seasons, you can go for short nature walks throughout the year to embrace the benefits of hot and cold exposure. If not, Sinclair suggests creating your own ways of feeling the elements. This is where cold showers, saunas, and even hot yoga may be beneficial.

  6. Stay Up to Date on Research on Supplements

    Sinclair clarifies that we haven’t found an elixir to make us stay youngyet. But his lab is working on exciting research that may soon hold promise. Sinclair mentions several supplements in his book that can activate the same cellular pathways as exercise and intermittent fasting. It’s important to know that none of these have been shown to stop us from aging completely, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one in the future that does. Herbal organic medicine product. natural herb essential from nature.

  7. Stay Up to Date on Preventative Health Care

    Seeking regular primary health care is key to early detection of many of the conditions that could shorten our lifespan, including various forms of cancer and heart disease. Sinclair’s words are an important reminder to seek and advocate for universal access to primary health care and lifesaving screenings.

  8. Stay Open to Medical Technology

    Sinclair is a big proponent of medical technology in Lifespan, advocating using smartwatches and regular tracking of biomarkers to better understand your individual health needs. It goes without saying that there are privacy concerns with health data that haven’t yet been solved. But if you feel comfortable with health tracking, it can be a powerful way to adapt your lifestyle to your health needs, aligning with the yogic principle of svadhyaya, or self-study. Consider embracing advancements in medical science with discernment, recognizing the potential for innovation to enhance the quality of life and extend longevity.

  9. Stay Up to Date on Vaccines

    Having studied public health at the graduate level, I was familiar with the statistics Sinclair presented on the way vaccinations have increased global lifespan. Sinclair advocates staying up to date on vaccinations as one of the key steps we can take to extend our own lifespan and that of our community. This aligns with the yogic principle of ahimsa (non-harming) by protecting oneself and others through vaccination, contributing to collective immunity and well-being.

  10. Sign Up to be an Organ Donor

    This final tip is not actually one that will extend your own lifespan, but it can certainly extend the lifespan of others in need of critical care. The concept of karma teaches us our good deeds will be rewarded, and becoming an organ donor can be seen as seva (selfless service) that provides the gift of life to those who need it most.

The Bottom Line on Healthy Aging

In Lifespan, David Sinclair shows us tangible steps to take to a longer, richer life, which echoes much of the wisdom of yogic philosophy. As yoga teachers and practitioners, we stand at the intersection of tradition and innovation. By integrating the principles of Lifespan with the transformative practices of yoga, we empower ourselves and others to embrace life’s fullness.

Lacey Ramirez

Lacey Ramirez writes for YogaUOnline and is an ERYT-200 yoga teacher, global health researcher, and writer based in St. Louis. Through her work, she seeks to make yoga accessible, inclusive, and equitable.

Lacey discovered yoga as a tool for centering during her years as a competitive runner. Since then, yoga has served as a way to connect with her body throughout her experience of pregnancy and parenthood. She teaches because she hopes others can use this sacred practice for calming, healing, and transformation.

As a yoga teacher, Lacey specializes in teaching restorative, Yin, prenatal, and trauma-informed Vinyasa yoga. She has also completed birth doula and prenatal/postnatal barre certifications and trainings. Additionally, she holds a Masters of Science in Global Health and Population from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. To learn more and connect, visit her website laceyramirez.com 

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