A longevity expert shares the 2 exercises she does every week to “slow down aging” and reduce stress

Olivia the Recat for CNBC Make It

Stress fitness is a way of training the body with short bursts of stress. Studies show that it can improve the health and regenerative longevity of your cells, rather than slowly wearing them out.

Compare drinking coffee all day to enjoying a single espresso. The former is not so good for you and will likely leave you feeling anxious and jittery; the latter comes with mood and health-boosting benefits.

Stress is the same way. You don’t want to be stressed out all day, but you do want to take short, intense “shots” of it that kick-start your body’s recovery process and train it to be more resilient to future stress.

I like to do my stress fitness exercises in the morning a few times a week, or at least once a week. Here are two to choose from:

1. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Complete one round of high-intensity interval training, which lasts about seven minutes. You can choose as many as you like from the following list, but keep it simple to get started:

  • Imprints
  • Shelf
  • She shelf
  • Jumping jacks
  • High knees
  • Jumping rope
  • Mountain climbers
  • Jump lunges
  • Jump squats
  • Burpees

Olivia the Recat for CNBC Make It

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat until the seven minutes are up.

With speed, find your limit of intensity where you feel some discomfort or struggle. Welcome the discomfort and difficulty as part of the experience – don’t fight it.

If you haven’t been active for a while, start with something accessible, like walking slowly to briskly.

2. Turn the knob to cold

Studies have shown that taking a quick, cold shower can reduce inflammation, increase longevity, and improve your metabolism.

At the end of a hot shower, turn the knob to cold. Can you stay under the current for 15 to 30 seconds? A minute? Push yourself to your edge in the same way you would for exercise, then relax into it. This is the key.

To build resilience, combine the shock of the stress response with a relaxed mind as much as possible.

Bonus exercise: heat it up!

Exposure to cold causes positive stress, as does exposure to heat, in the right circumstances.

While more research is needed, some studies have found links between sauna bathing and a lower risk of cardiovascular problems and inflammation.

Your heart rate increases during sauna use, as if you were doing moderate exercise. If you have access to a sauna at home or at your gym, try sitting in it for 30 minutes.

But consult your doctor first if you have serious health problems.

Elissa Epel, PhD, is a health psychologist and longevity researcher. She’s a professor University of California, San Francisco and UCSF’s director Aging, metabolism and emotion center. In her latest book “The Stress Recipe,” she distills decades of research into science-based techniques that can help turn your stress into your strength. Follow her on Twitter @Dr_Epel.

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