Notes: The Buffering-Challenging Strategy for Health, Fitness and Life-extension by Francis Heylighen

What evolutionary theory an cybernetics can teach us about improving health, fitness and longevity?

\begin{equation} H(E) \geq H(P)–H(A)+H(A|P)–B \end{equation}


\(H\) - variety or uncertainty
\(E\) - essential variables
\(P\) - perturbations
\(A\) - actions
\(B\) - buffering capacity

Maximising fitness is minimising \(H(E)\).

One way we can minimise \(H(E)\) is by maximsing buffering capacity \(B\).

Another way is to minimise \(H(P)\) by avoiding known dangers.

Yet another way is to maximise the range of actions \(H(A)\) as well as to minimise uncertainty \(H(A|P)\) (e.g. by maximising knowledge).

Buffering is having resources that can absorb future shocks passively.

More variety of action is always better: qualitative (more types of actions) and quantitative (wide range of a given type of action).

Requisite knowledge - being able to know which action to perform.

Given perturbation \(P\), perform action \(A: P \to A\) (condition-action rule).

Knowledge is the opposite of uncertainty \(H(P|A)\).

This must be learned from the experience, by reinforcing \(P \to A\) whenever \(A\) successfully compensate \(P\) and weaken the \(P \to A\) otherwise.

Bruce Ames - triage theory of ageing.

Ageing \(=\) accumulated damage (grows exponentially with age)).

Solution: we need to stimulate the organism to repair more damage that it normally would.


By making resources more available: buffering.

By threatening with more intense damage: challenging.

Challenging is subjecting organism to condition(s) that require powerful action.

Works best if challenge is:

Buffering provides resources and challenging trains the organist to use them.

Buffering methods

Food, rest, supplements (vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, methyl donors).


Healthy diet

“Paleo”: amino-acids, fatty acids, some glucose, minerals, vitamins.


Best from natural sources. Maximum variety. Supplements are useful. Get both water soluable and fat soluable antioxidants.

Vitamins and minerals

\(Mg, Ca, Se, Mn, Zn, Cu, I, …\)

Vitamins \(A, B, …, C, D, E, K\).

Methyl donors

Methyl donors donate methyl groups to various metabolic processes.

B-vitamins, choline, betaine, folic acid (DNA repair).

Plant polyphenols

Antioxidant, anti-inflammalory, anticancer, anti-microbal.

Found in: (colourful) fruits and vegetables, tea, coffee, wine, herbs and spices.

Challenging methods

Mental challenges

Get to know new things, ideas, people, countries, disciplines, foods, cultures, hobbies, …

Creative endeavours: art, writing, music, design, research.

Discussions with people from different backgrounds.

Tackle comples problems.

But avoid information overload, relax to assimilate.

Physiological challenges

Complex, unpredictable environments.

Cognitive stimulation.

Variety of physical excersises.

Physiological challenges: heat, cold, sunlight, stretching, vibration, falling, fasting, hormesis.

Lab animals in enriched environments are healthier, smarter and live longer.

Natural environment are more complex and challenging than indoors.

MovNat method.

Use irregular weights.

Go to sauna (heat). It produces heat shock proteins that repair damage in cells.

Cold baths (maybe after the sauna).

Intermitten fasting - easier and healthier than calorie restriction. Don’t eat for 16 hours.

Hormesis - foods and drugs that are toxic in large doses but stimulate repair mechanisms in small doses.

Alcohol. coffee, sulforaphanes (broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbages), hot pepper, other spices, certain medicines.

Wide variety of movements, intensities, styles and disciplines of physical excersise.

Do yoga - stretching and compressing various muscles and joints.

Do vibration training - shake up the whole body. Very effective in strengthening muscles, bones, tendons.

Judo: uses all parts of the body in coordination.

Specific antioxidants: OPC (grapeseed extract, look for 90% OPC), Q10, alpha lipoid acids, acetyl-L-carnitine.


  1. Francis Heylighen. The Buffering-Challenging Strategy for Health, Fitness and Life-extension. Youtube. 2016. URL:

  2. Francis Heylighen. Cybernetic Principles of Aging and Rejuvenation: the buffering-challenging strategy for life extension. Evolution, Complexity and Cognition group. Vrije Universiteit Brussel. arXiv:1403.8135 [q-bio.OT]