Live Long and Master Aging podcast



Another 50 years: Moderation in everything?

Peter Allison & Peter Bowes

Peter Allison and Peter Bowes – school friends 50 years ago, now contemplating the next chapter in life – return with another conversation about the latest science that could help us achieve a longer healthspan.

In this episode we discuss:


  • The frustration and time-wasting that can come with excessive phone use and the degradation of interpersonal connection. 
  • The importance of finding balance and moderation in using electronic devices. 
  • Why both Peters exercise in the morning and find it helps them feel more productive and accomplished throughout the day. 
  • Peter Allison shares how he has combatted loneliness by creating structure in his day and making lists of tasks to complete. 
  • How loneliness can be a silent killer, leading to various health issues, and that moderation is key to a healthy lifestyle. 

Earlier conversations between Peter A. and Peter B.

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TRANSCRIPT – This conversation was recorded on September 21, 2023 and transcribed using Sonix AI. Please check against audio recording for absolute accuracy.

Peter Allison: My phone is switched onto silent mode and I leave it in a different room. I leave it in a different room and I don’t pick it up. And I resent that wasting of time that just gets sucked into it. I really do.

Peter Bowes: Hello again. Welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast. This is the latest in our series where Peter Allison and I try to figure out what it takes to enjoy another 50 years or thereabouts. It is 50 years since we first went to school together, 50 years this month. In fact, Peter spent much of his life working as a professor of geology in the UK while I pursued a career in broadcast journalism. With the past almost three decades spent here in the United States, we’re both now at that, and I’m beginning to think quite complicated decade when careers end or at least wind down, retirement beckons and were both trying to figure out the best ways to optimize our health as we move forward with our lives. Peter that pretty much sums it up?

Peter Allison: Well it certainly does, isn’t it? That was very sobering, actually. It sort of left me a bit speechless there. Peter.

Peter Bowes: I didn’t mean to have that effect at the beginning of this conversation, but if it’s sobering, so be it. Yeah. So the last time we spoke, you – it hasn’t been for a few weeks. You were struggling to get back into your gym routine after a period of traveling and you’ve just been away again. So I’m just curious where you are at the moment.

Peter Allison: Oh I knew you were going to ask me this, Peter. You know what? So I got back. I was on I was in Malta on a diving course last week. And when I got back, I thought, I’m going to be talking to Peter and he’s going to ask me if I’ve gone to the gym. So as I was as I woke up and I was having my wife and I have a long habit of having breakfast in bed together. So it started and this started out when the kids were little, and it was just about the only time we could have some peace and quiet. So now we still continue this. One of us takes turns, makes breakfast, and it was this thing you’re lying in bed eating your breakfast. Do I go to the gym? And then I’m thinking, No, Peter’s going to ask me if I’ve been to the gym, so I better be able to say yes. So I have been back to the gym, haven’t started on the strength stuff yet, but I’ve been getting the cardio back to where I think it should be. So I’m doing the same level of cardio that I was doing two months ago. So yeah, that’s just about fine. Got to get back to the strength stuff now.

Peter Bowes: I’m glad I can play a role of virtual distant inspiration then in some way if I’m doing that, or maybe it’s peer pressure. I don’t know what it is, but I raise that subject in part because, yeah, I was curious, but also the first subject that we’re going to talk about today and just a reminder in this podcast, what we do is look at the latest science, the latest academic papers or indeed other issues that have maybe cropped up in the news. And there’s going to be a couple of today that are of interest and certainly attracted my attention as we think about these age related issues, exercise related issues as we get older. And actually very recently, this is a study in Obesity Journal. It was published on the 4th of September and it is about the best time window during the day to exercise specifically looking at the relationship between exercise and weight loss. And this study isolated the hours of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. as being most associated with having a lower waist circumference and body mass, at least lower than those people who worked out during the midday or evening time. And this is an epidemiological study of some 5000 people from 2003 to 2006. This is the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data that is often used, isn’t it, Peter, In terms of these kinds of studies, the data already exists, but it’s being reexamined with this particular issue in mind.

Peter Allison: I mean, first of all, when I looked at this, I sort of like cheered, right? Because I’m a sort of like I’m an early morning exerciser. So I thought that’s that’s good. But I mean, because it’s an epidemiological study. It’s difficult to identify cause and effect, isn’t it?

Peter Bowes: Exactly.

Peter Allison: So, I mean, that’s always the problem with these things. And it could be that there are people who are exercising in the afternoon who have other habits or are doing other things. Maybe they’re not restricting their calories or whatever. So it’s difficult to try and pin down. I mean, and the authors themselves, they cannot pin down the cause and cause and effect of this. One of the things they suggest is that it may be that people who are exercising in the morning because they’re starting their exercise in the morning, they’re in calorie deficit when they start. So they’re burning weight, so they’re burning calories off. That’s one of the suggestions that might be the case. But otherwise it’s a sort of a it’s interesting, but the absence of a cause and effect is or the mere hinting of what the cause and effect is here is, I hesitate to say the word frustrating. It’s sort of.

Peter Bowes: But yeah, I agree with you. And just to elaborate on that a little bit. Essentially what happened was that they had their BMI, their waist circumference measured before the activity tracking period, but not afterwards. So that falls into exactly what you’re saying, that they yes, they fell into this category, but there’s certainly no cause and effect information there that we can glean from this. The only conclusion is that it seems as if those people that were successful in losing weight fell into that category. But the reasons and perhaps it is the reasons that are of most interest to us, those reasons are not clear.

Peter Allison: Yeah. I mean, are you a morning exerciser or are you an evening?

Peter Bowes: Definitely morning. And I think this is why it’s still interesting. I had exactly the same reaction as you. I thought, great, at least I’m in that category. I prefer actually, this goes for everything that I do in life, whether it is work or exercise. I prefer to do everything in the morning. If I could choose the best time of day to to go to work and do the kind of work that I do, I would say morning. And I’ve actually got a long history of doing that. When I was in the UK, I used to work mostly in the mornings working on breakfast programs. I feel that’s the time I’m at my best, both physically and mentally. But yes, now that I’ve got a little bit more freedom in terms of choosing the hours that I do things. Exercise is the thing that I do first. I mean, one reason the dogs demand it that I get out there and do some exercise, but I also go to the gym. Usually it’s a regular 9:00 in the morning that I do the the gym and then tend to work later in the day. I feel better. I feel as if I and I think there is something in just getting it done, just getting it out of the way for the day. Like you, it isn’t necessarily top of my list of things that I want to do that day, but I know I’ve got to.

Peter Allison: Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. I mean, were you always a normal a morning person, you know, going back 50 years ago, were you a morning person?

Peter Bowes: That’s interesting because I don’t think I was certainly as a student, I wasn’t a morning person. And I think as you go back even further as a teenager, when we first knew each other, getting up in the morning to go to school was tough, didn’t like it and would sleep in for a long and embarrassingly long time on a weekend because I could. So I definitely wasn’t a morning person then. But I think then you’ve got the complication of of growing factors. The body is still growing. You need more sleep at that time of your life. But then as I progressed into certainly 20s and 30s, I definitely became a morning person. And what I’m not certain of is whether that was just foisted on me because of my work schedule at the time. And then it grew on me as a lifestyle and it’s something that I haven’t kicked ever since. But there is interestingly, and we’re not going to delve into it today, but there is interesting science about this, that there is some have identified a genetic effect here, that some of us are predetermined. Yes, pre-wired, if you like to be morning people or to be night owls to want to stay up till 3:00 in the morning.

Peter Allison: I mean, because I’m aware of some of this genetic work as well. And I was the reason I asked that question is because I would mirror exactly what you’ve just said is I would have said that when I was in late teens, early 20s, when I was an undergraduate student, I was definitely a nighttime person. I would have been happily staying up till 1 or 2:00 listening to music, you know, and really wanting to lie in bed, getting into lectures, you know, You know what it was like.

Peter Bowes: Skin of your teeth..

Peter Allison: Yeah. By the skin of your teeth. And then sort of like, you know, just trying to get your brain in gear. And yet now nowadays, this morning I woke up at 5:00, I laid in bed for about 530 and then went downstairs and made my wife a cup of tea because I knew she was going to wake up in a few minutes time. And I just had a cup of tea ready for her when she woke up. So it was now I’m just the exact opposite of that. And so and I’m and I’m aware of this genetic stuff, but I’m thinking, well, I’ve just transitioned from one to the other and I like you. I’ve. I mean, you had the radio work. I used to get up to commute into London and I was just so used to being on that 7:00 train into London.

Peter Bowes: Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? And it’s interesting you say about the 5:00 in the morning waking up. That’s about when I wake up now and I now wake up. It’s still dark outside. Look at the clock, hoping, really hoping that it’s five, 530 or even on a really good day, 6 a.m., that I’ve slept for that long. And usually it isn’t. It’s quite often times it’s 430, it’s 445. And I’m thinking, well, I really should sleep a little bit longer, but I can’t. And I’m, I’m all of a sudden wide awake at that time of day.

Peter Allison: Well, you know, we’ve talked about walking before. And the last time I think the last time we chatted, we were talking about walking. I walked to the gym and I so I walked to the gym. I did my cardio and I’ve been walking back. So this morning I was walking to the gym and in my head, I’m just so it’s, you know, late summer. But actually, as I was walking to the gym, it was eight degrees outside. So I was walking to the gym because it’s so early at eight degrees. So there I was in my shorts walking to the gym. Fortunately, I had a sweatshirt on, but I was cold. I could feel the cold all the way through, all the way to till I got to the gym. But, you know, in part I just feel that sometimes feeling cold is good for you. And because it just I’m sure it’s a stimulus to the circulation system just being cold. And so I just feel that, you know, it’s not going to kill me. I’m just going to feel a bit cold and the walk to the gym and then I get to the gym and I’m and I’m sweating like everybody else. So it’s no big deal. Yeah. I mean, on the walk back by it probably put four degrees on by the time I was walking.

Peter Bowes: Back I’m the same. And of course, living here in California, I relish those days when I can get and we’re actually just moving in. The weather this year has been weird in California. It’s only still September. Normally, this is one of the hottest months of the year here. The hotter months come towards the end of the year, but it chilly mornings and as you know, we had some torrential rain very unusual the tropical storm that we had a few weeks ago very unusual for here. But even earlier in the summer, we’ve had much more rain this year and it’s almost feeling like a British season. So I’m getting up in the morning at 5 or 6 a.m. and opening the door, let the dogs out and having to close it quickly because it’s so cold. It’s weird, but I’m actually quite enjoying it.

Peter Allison: Yeah, it’s an El Nino year.

Peter Bowes: It is, yes. Yeah. So that means potentially more rain this winter. We’ve lived through lots of El Ninos here in California, not particularly recently. I know when I first moved here in the mid 90s, I think 97 was a really, really wet year. Again, I quite like that. We need everyone knows we need well, we probably don’t need the rain now. The reservoirs are are really full at the moment, but it’s nice to get back to, you know, everything’s beautifully green, which is unusual at this time of year. So it’s good for the countryside. Yeah. So that’s good. Let’s move on. Peter, The issue of loneliness is something that we’ve talked about in this podcast, not you and I, but with other guests over the last few months being a really serious problem that is being more acknowledged these days, I think, than ever before. And in a report earlier this year, the US Surgeon General linked it to a number of conditions cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, premature death, saying that the mortality rate was similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarets a day. Now, that study’s been out for a while. I then also spotted an article in the Los Angeles Times that linked this issue to societal changes and especially our use of of technology. And they focused in the fact that we have self-checkouts now at supermarkets. And for those honestly something I had never really thought about, but for those people who are lonely sometimes just getting out and going to a supermarket, doing their daily shopping and talking to someone there at the checkout is at least an opportunity to speak to someone. But this tendency to push everyone towards the the self checkouts is potentially making things worse.

Peter Allison: There are just so many tragically sad ironies in this, aren’t there, really? We live in a world where everyone is. There is so much hyper connection in the world that we live in with phone and email and social media, and yet it’s so easy for that to degrade the quality of human contact that we have. And it’s so easy to get pulled into it. I mean, I can put my hand up and I can say, you know, I can think of times when I’ve been sitting with friends and family members and then you absentmindedly pick up your phone, maybe you pick up your phone to do something sensible and then, you know, I shouldn’t you know, I shouldn’t use the word sensible, but you pick your phone up to do something which needs to be done, and then you flick through and then you just suddenly find yourself just being hooked in and wasting time. And it essentially degrades the quality of interpersonal connection that you have when you’re present with other human beings. I think I mean, and this is something that it talks about in that surgeon general report. It talks about that degradation of the quality of human contact. And it made me just think about the comparison between that and the other problems which are which are impacting upon us all, which are the temptation for obesity everywhere. It’s it’s farming. Technology has been so developed that we’re able to produce so much food. We’ve got starvation in part of the planet. We’ve got readily available food. We’ve become obese. We’ve got labor saving devices. We don’t exercise as much. We’ve got devices which allow us to have more social connection, but then that degrades the quality of social connection that we have. I mean, there are so many obvious and tragic ironies and it’s so easy to be pulled into all of them. I mean, do you find a temptation with that yourself, with social media and. Oh, totally.

Peter Bowes: I think it’s a huge, huge issue that I tend to think of this issue, the umbrella issue of loneliness almost as a silent killer. And all the repercussions that you’ve just outlined, that it’s there, it’s around us, but we can’t see it really. It’s something that we can’t it’s difficult to pinpoint. And I think that’s why it’s been overlooked for so long. I think clearly technology, social media has a big role to play. I don’t think it’s entirely to blame. I think the way the society is changing is is potentially to blame as well. But in terms of using the phone, as you say, whether it’s looking down to try to do something sensible or necessary or work related, whatever, there are so many distractions in that little piece of technology that are clearly bad for us, that are a waste of time. And I can I can see for the. I was going to ask you, have you ever been in a state during your life where you felt lonely, where you felt seriously lonely, and how did you cope with it? And I’m guessing maybe it was in a different age and therefore some of these issues didn’t apply.

Peter Allison: How did I cope with it? I, I think I needed to develop structure in my day because I think if you’ve got for me, if I experience loneliness, then loneliness can lead to I mean, I wouldn’t use the word despair, but it’s almost an associated level of apathy. And to combat that, I need lists. I mean. I mean, I need a list. So I make lists of things that I need to do, lists of things I need to do in the day, the week, the month. And I don’t do everything that’s on the list. But if I have the list and it’s one of the things I really like going to the gym in the morning because by the time I get back, I feel as though I’ve achieved something in the day. Something’s been achieved. I’ve started the day with an achievement and then I can go on. And as I tick myself through the list, I’ve created more achievements. It might seem that that might might seem strange as a way of combating loneliness, but I think it’s where it does is it sort of gives me a sort of a sense of discipline that then I can go out and interact with people. Maybe I’m not phrasing that very.

Peter Bowes: You know, I get what you’re saying. And actually, you just you triggered another thought going back to the previous story that we were talking about, just going to the gym. You’re probably the same as me. I always leave feeling much better than when I arrived. Just walking through the door. Yeah, knowing not really dreading it, actually. Quite looking forward to it. But you know, you’ve got a routine to go through. You’ve got certain weights to lift, you know, it’s going to be tough at certain times and it is to some extent something to be got through. But you walk out exhilarated, you’ve done it. And and in my case, kind of ready for the day. But there’s more than that. There is the social interaction that you have by being at a gym and especially if you’re working alongside, working out alongside other people or working with a coach, there’s a there’s a conversation there very often not talking about what you’re doing, but talking about the world or something that’s going on in in their lives. And there’s the social interaction intermingled with the physical benefits of of being at the gym.

Peter Allison: Yeah. And again, I was just thinking about combating loneliness. And, I mean, you can really you really can today. Of course we can. It’s so easy to pick the phone up and have a video call and talk to somebody where you can actually see some sort of social media. And this accessibility that we get through electronic devices can help combat, can help combat loneliness. Because while I was away in Malta, I was in a hotel room. It was very hot outside. I’d be doing my diving, I’d come back, I would be dehydrated because of the heat. I had to do this course in a dry suit. Peter So I had a dry suit on. I was putting a dry suit on in 30 degrees. And of course, you may remember that I’m a sweaty northerner, so I just don’t really I cope with the cold really well. I don’t cope with the heat so well. Right. And so I was just getting back exhausted and I’d just go out for a meal and I probably wasn’t apart from people on the course. I probably wasn’t talking to any of the human being more than 40, 50 words a day. But, you know, I could talk to my wife, right? So you can use electronic devices from that. And yet those electronic devices can also degrade things as well. They can be both useful and they can be a negative. Do you do anything to combat that yourself? If you think about the degrading effect that electronic devices can have and so on?

Peter Bowes: Well, I suppose what I, I guess what a lot of people are trying to do is simply just put it down and to use it for the beneficial reasons that it is designed for and try to have the discipline, which is admittedly difficult, but the discipline not to be distracted by the the waste of time aspects of of social media and of technology. There’s a new iPhone upgrade actually coming back to the gym. I was talking to someone a few decades younger than me asking me. So seeing me with the iPhone. Have you done the latest upgrade to the latest operating system showing me on their phone because they’ve done it the very instant that they were able to do it all excited about the new functions. And I’m looking at it kind of dreading getting my head around the fact that it’s all going to look different. I’m going to have to learn a load of new stuff just to achieve the same kind of things. This person was was very excited about it. Look, we can do this, we can do this, we can do this. And most of which I didn’t need to do anyway. I think there’s clearly a generational issue there, but I think maybe in terms of what to do about it, maybe those of us who are of a generation that knows what it was like not to have them at all, maybe ought to try to better find some balance in our lives that that mirrors how it used to be. And I don’t want to be like an old curmudgeon. Yeah. Defying the fact that we’ve got this technology, I think a lot of it is good, but I think perspective is, is what we need to try to achieve. Yeah.

Peter Allison: Which brings us on to almost brings us on to the to the last thing we’re going to discuss. But I was thinking that what I feel so I’ve noticed so often I’ll be sitting down and I’ll be maybe watching a movie and there’ll be a ping. I’m expecting an email and it might be I’ll just quickly have a look at this and say yes, no or whatever, or a text message and then just find yourself flicking. So now what I do is I my. Phone is switched onto silent mode and I leave it in a different room. I leave it in a different room and I don’t pick it up. And I resent that. Wasting of time. That just gets sucked into it. I really do. And I. You saw me laugh when I was when you were talking about your dreaded the new operating system. And I was thinking, you know, 40 years. Well, when did when I’ve been using that particular type of computer I’ve been using I’ve been using it since the 1980s, that model of computer. And I remember the operating systems used to come out and I would I would be that person that would hungrily download everything and install it and play with it. And now I’m just the Oh, really? Do I have to? I suppose so. You know, and so when you were talking about that, I was just laughing because I was just that’s just exactly me.

Peter Bowes: And something else you just said that just triggered a thought in my mind. And this is directly related to my conversations with you. When we’re not doing this right now, we communicate using a certain social media chat platform, of which there are many. And I don’t know whether you’re like me, but I have friends, work colleagues, especially. There are a number of different platforms we can use to instant message and everyone uses it seems like everyone uses something different. So I know in my mind that if I’m waiting for a communication from from you or from someone different, that you’re not going to communicate with me on platform A But this other person probably will. And so you’re flicking between and making sure that you have notifications on your front page for all these different ways to communicate, which ultimately just fuels my frustration with the whole thing that, you know, the olden days, I hate to use that expression, but the olden days there was a phone and then there was then there was email, but there were limited numbers of ways of which we could actually get in touch with each other. And we all kind of used to use the same thing because there weren’t many.

Peter Allison: I remember in the early days when I was going to the United States to give talks or to do field work or whatever. And I remember going to the airport and it was a time before smartphones, before I even had a mobile phone. If I think going back to the late 1980s, early 1990s. And I knew that once I jumped on the bus that took me to Heathrow Airport. At that point, nobody on planet Earth could contact me except I suppose the police could, but nobody was going to contact me and I was just uncontactable for the next 18 or 20 hours until until I got to a hotel. I used to love that, that feeling of being not contactable. My goodness, I used to love it. And of course, I’ve never had that since. Ever since I got a mobile phone. Really?

Peter Bowes: Yeah. And I still refuse to get the Wi-Fi on planes. I don’t want to be in touch. And especially for domestic flights, it’s not still not quite as easy on all international flights. But I even on domestic flights, I just, as a matter of principle, don’t pay for the Wi-Fi. I think I can go for a few hours without being and as you say, quite enjoy that isolation.

Peter Allison: Yeah. I mean, in diving, you know, there are people who are marketing devices that will allow you to communicate with people and talk to them underwater. And I’m just sitting there thinking, why? Why? I want silence.

Peter Bowes: Yeah, exactly. Let’s let’s move on then, because I think this this final story, as you just indicated, is kind of relevant to this. And the headline is moderation in everything. We can just apply that to our mobile phones. Yes. Last month, the UK’s oldest man celebrated his 111th birthday, John Tinniswood. He lives in a care home in Southport and he took the opportunity of his birthday when asked to share some of his rules to live by with healthy aging in mind. And they include exercising the mind and moderation in all things, which really struck a chord with me. I’ve probably mentioned it to you before, Peter, that I think through all the conversations that I’ve had with some of the world’s experts on longevity science, whether it’s diet, exercise, you name it, it all often seems to come down to moderation in everything exercise, diet, work, play, drinking. And, you know, to describe it as a newfangled longevity, hack moderation might be pushing it a little bit, but I would actually quite like to pursue that and see if I could get people to it’s generally met with kind of a glazed look. That’s not very exciting moderation, but I really genuinely believe that there’s a lot in it.

Peter Allison: Yeah, I think so too. And I think there’s there’s been a number of science stories and really interesting stories about diet, hasn’t there, about and the role of various foodstuffs. There was a lovely. Bc article some years back, which was illustrating statistics and looking at the detrimental impact of I believe it was bacon and the relationship between bacon and colon cancer, which, you know, everyone knows about cured meats and things and, and what sort of negative health impact it was. And it was the BBC article was just about how you communicate the statistics, which was a really nice article. And really what it boiled down to it was if you eat bacon in moderation, it’s sort of fine really. But you know, if you eat bacon every day of your life, well, you probably wouldn’t want to eat it every day of your life, right? Then, you know, then you then you have an increased risk of various cancers. But if you eat it once every couple of weeks, it doesn’t really make a lot of difference. Yeah, just.

Peter Bowes: Like you probably wouldn’t want to eat tofu or red beans. Yes. Supposedly healthy foods. You wouldn’t want to eat those with every meal every day of your life.

Peter Allison: Yeah, except my wife, for example. If she has bacon because she has a bit of arthritis. So if she has bacon, her knuckles, she gets arthritis in her hands and she gets pain almost within an hour and a half. So I even though I do like bacon, I know if I cook it, my wife will say, no, I won’t eat it. But as soon as I cook it, she’ll want to have it. So by and large, I just don’t cook it in the house really, because otherwise it’s just an unfair temptation on her.

Peter Bowes: Yeah, exactly. And clearly, notwithstanding the fact that there’s a lot of very good, very beneficial research behind different food types that we can’t ignore. And as you’ve just implied, one diet isn’t right for everyone. So you can’t just blindly say moderation in everything is going to suit everyone because it probably isn’t, and that there are certain food groups that I’m you know, there are certain things that I know I can’t eat later in the day because I get a bad night’s sleep. And that’s mostly dairy foods. But I think as a as a general principle in our lives, yeah, moderation is probably quite a good word. Yeah.

Peter Allison: I think that I naturally feel as though that seems to be like a really good idea.

Peter Bowes: And with that in mind, I guess we’ve talked for 30 minutes. Moderation in everything. Let’s call it a day. Peter It’s been another really good conversation. Really enjoyed this one. We will talk soon.

Peter Allison: Look forward to it, Peter.

The Live Long and Master Aging (LLAMA) podcast, a HealthSpan Media LLC production, shares ideas but does not offer medical advice. If you have health concerns of any kind, or you are considering adopting a new diet or exercise regime, you should consult your doctor.

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