4 min|Dr. Maya Kuczma
3 Easy (AND CHEAP!) Ways to BiohackHealth
You may have heard the term ‘biohack’ thrown around when referring to everything from continuously monitoring glucose levels, (1) wearing hearing-aids even in the absence of hearing deficits, (2) and injecting experimental genetic therapy. (3) While the jury is still out as to whether we should - or would want to - partake in any of these extreme biohacking practices, there are many other biohacks that have been shown to hold biological benefit.
Biohacking can most broadly be defined as utilizing science and self-experimentation to uplevel our health. (4) Taking your existing routine, and optimizing the habits you already have in place, is a form of biohacking. Interested in experimenting with your own routine to level-up your health? You’re already a biohacker. And you’ll likely benefit from some of our favourite, science-backed (and cheap!) biohacks:
1. Get Some Sleep
Just ‘sleep’? Isn’t that too simple? Sure. The concept of sleep is simple, and yet, often diminished. Most of us don’t get enough, don’t account for the hours we need, or leave devices on that can buzz, beep, or light up at all hours, disrupting our sleep cycle. Sleep allows the glymphatic system - the macroscopic waste drainage system of the brain - to function, eliminating potential neurotoxic waste components, such as beta amyloid, a protein fragment suspected to be the primary cause of Alzheimer’s. (5,6) A good night’s sleep is the best way to ‘hack’ your brain, hormones, and recovery from the day.
Prioritize sleep by beginning to wind-down 9 hours before you have to wake up: dim the lights, silence every device that can make a noise, turn screens off, and stop working. Aim to be in bed, in a dark room, asleep, 7-8 hours before your alarm will go off the next day. If your room isn’t very dark, consider wearing an eye mask to limit the light exposure that can inhibit melatonin release. (7)
2. Move Every Day
If we could package the biological benefits of movement into a pill, it would be the most impactful medication ever invented. Many types of movement are beneficial:
- Walking after eating can lower the blood-sugar effect of a meal (8)
- Tai chi and qigong can have a positive effect on bone density (9)
- Swimming can lower risk of early death, and risk of death due to heart disease and stroke (10)
- Pilates can improve muscle endurance and flexibility (11)
- Walking can reduce body mass index (BMI), body weight, and body fat percentage (12)
- Exercise, generally, may be an effective treatment for unipolar depression (13)
We are made to move. Rather than debating which type of movement is the best ‘hack’, recognize that the best type of movement is the one that you will do often. Choose the movement that you can build into your day, every day, and make it a habit.
3. Get Outside
Spending time in nature has been shown to decrease stress, (14) improve subjective well-being, (15) and enhance immune system activity. (16) Additionally, being in the great outdoors allows for vitamin D production (via UV rays from the sun) as well as an opportunity for many movement-based activities. Improvements in health were observed following only 120-minutes per week in nature. (15) Aim for at least 20-minutes per day in green-space (forests, parks, beaches, etc), or ‘stock-up’ on the weekend when you may have more time, by spending 60-minutes on both Saturday and Sunday, or 120-minutes in nature on one of the weekend days.
Some of the best - and cheapest - biohacks are the practices we used to do intuitively
Getting outside, moving often, and sleeping well were components built into our day, before our lives became greatly occupied by screen time, commutes, and the glorification of being busy. It can be tempting to fall down the rabbit hole of supplements, medications, and apps looking for a ‘quick fix’ that might have the same benefits as these practices, but there is no replacement for the three mainstays of human biology listed above.
However, if you want to build upon this foundation, and incorporate further health improvements in order to achieve optimal health, you may be interested in the Integrative Biohacking Program.