Quantitative Medicine, Quantitative Exercise

In fitness and exercise, the terms quantitative and qualitative are thrown around quite often, usually without much thought to what they really mean. (Many times when they are used, it is for the purpose of calling out the people who used them without much thought.)

That said, they are terms that matter in diet, exercise and healthcare. They are terms that matter to quality of life.

They are terms that guide us. And that is exactly how Mike Nichols, M.D. and Charles Davis, Ph.D. use quantitative in their book, Quantitative Medicine.


Numbers do matter, and the authors describe a self-healthcare plan, in which you take action on the numbers that have heretofore been seen solely as labels or diagnoses¬(high blood sugar, high cholesterol, etc.)

Here are a few excerpts that discuss the Quantitative Medicine approach to exercise.

mike nichols MD

Quantitative Medicine proposes a lifestyle based on the healthy habits and practices that will reap the innumerable benefits of ideal homeostasis and anabolism. Ideal homeostasis means the hypothalamus is able to keep the various hormones, nutrients and biochemicals regulated in their proper zones. Since these biochemicals circulate in the blood, they are readily measured with a blood test. Anabolism can also be measured this way.

If you change your lifestyle, you will change these measurements, and that will mean your health has changed as well. This is the fundamental reason Quantitative Medicine works so well. Quantitative Medicine discovers the early roots of disease which are knowable and measurable and formulates a very specific, to each individual, pathway to correct and reverse the diseases.

Proper diet, stress reduction, and good sleep provide an environment in which cells can thrive. If any of these components are missing, the cells will be under duress and cannot be healthy. However, simply providing a healthy environment doesn’t mean the cell is going to do anything useful with it, and this is where exercise comes into the picture. Hippocrates attests to the fact that this is not a new notion:

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”

Degenerative disease prevention, mental health, energy level, aging and many more factors of health depend on the cells’ biological power, resources and molecular machinery. Food is fuel; we want clean fuel. Stress and poor sleep compromise the cells, and these problems must be avoided to the furthest extent possible. But exercise is what makes the cells active, makes them powerful and healthy.

Mitochondria are tiny energy generators within the cells. In each cell, there are usually hundreds of them, sometimes thousands. They generally do their job, don’t rebel, and produce our energy directly from the fat and glucose we eat. But they extract a paradoxical and deadly sort of revenge: if they are not used—not worked and left idle—they will break down and poison the host cell. This deterioration needn’t happen if he mitochondria can be kept busy and engaged, which keeps them running smoothly and keeps them (and you) out of trouble.

While we are primarily looking at exercise, it has innumerable other benefits. A major one is its ability to increase HDL and especially the “mature” HDL—the “really good” cholesterol. Elevating HDL sharply reduces cancer and heart attack risk. Likewise, IGF-1 and testosterone, two major anabolic hormones, are also increased with exercise. These two (along with several others) greatly promote cell renewal and repair and retard aging.

Most exercise programs emphasize weight loss, with the rest being mainly about bodybuilding. The Quantitative Medicine exercise program is like no other. You could say it emphasizes biological power (keeping those mitochondria busy) through three key points (listed in the order in which they must be mastered):

Skeletal Health
The initial exercises aim at getting the joints into good shape, with full range of motion, strengthening the tendons and ligaments, strengthening the bones, and stimulating the neuromuscular paths. If you master these, you will repair and strengthen your joints, improve your coordination and balance and strengthen your bones.

While you are repairing your knees or other joints, why not add a few new nerves? It has been the conventional medical wisdom that you would get no new ones and were lucky to hold on to the ones you already had. Not true at all, though still widely believed. Again, it’s a case of “use it or lose it.” These next exercises aren’t particularly strenuous either, but build balance, coordination, agility and, as promised, new nerves.

Try some fancy footwork—a fun, agility-building exercise that only requires a little tape quadrant on the floor.


See the left-right, back-front pattern? Repeat 10 times, rest, repeat . . . when you get good, change the pattern.

Heart Rate Variability
The heart can and will get into a groove. It will become efficient at dealing with the modest demand placed on it, but will be unable to accommodate increased workloads. Running the heart rate up and down, intensely, but briefly, means a modest increase in blood pressure and blood flow, but the cleansing and rejuvenating effects of a brief high pressure and high blood flow rate will not occur.

Repeated research has shown, again and again, that short but intense exercise practices are markedly more beneficial—with noticeable health improvements occurring within weeks. There is also a large body of science supporting the concept that varying the heart over its full range has huge health benefits and dramatically reduces heart risk.

Aerobic exercise is better than no exercise at all, but not by much. Keeping your heart rate moderately elevated for extended periods of time trains your heart and lungs to stay moderately elevated, and, as you might suspect, this is only moderately beneficial.

To run your heart up to its maximum, you need exercises that engage your legs and probably your back as well. An exercise using mainly arms, like swimming, likely won’t work. Arm muscles simply aren’t large enough to make the demands needed to elevate the heart rate.

Rowing machines are great for this. Master the 2K row and then try some intervals. Warm up for two minutes, then set the rower machine up for time intervals, 20 seconds of rowing, 10 seconds of rest. Give the first 20-second row all you’ve got. Anything left over can be done on the second row. If you have much left after the first two, you weren’t trying hard enough. Remember, the whole idea is to place demands on the heart and body that they cannot immediately fulfill so that they will undertake all the changes needed to increase your biological power.


Hill Runs will get you there as well. If the hill is steep enough, you will start to run out of steam after 20 or 30 seconds. Set a “finish” line about 10 yards beyond your out-of-steam point and chug on. Walk down and do it two more times.

Mitochondrial Health
In a state of ideal peak health, the energy-generating mitochondria are busy. Their efficiency goes up, as does their rate of proliferation.

For mitochondrial health and proliferation, exercises should be WECMC:
Multi-Planar, and

Follow these criteria for all exercise, even climbing a flight of stairs or getting out of a chair. Doing exercise this way will maximize the benefit on several levels.

We are not doing this to build muscle (though this will happen). We are trying to increase your body’s ability to recruit muscle (properly use the muscle it has), improve joint strength and range of motion, improve balance and coordination and prevent osteoporosis. Bone and muscle development are natural consequences, but the entire process sets off a cascade of desirable bodily functions that go far beyond the “body beautiful” notion.

At this point, if you are doing all of the above, you are maintaining your joints and neurological health by doing some joint and balance exercises, you are preventing osteoporosis by doing squats and deadlifts, hopefully in an explosive way, and you are running your heart up and down in the rower or equivalent exercise.

In programming for clients following the Quantitative Medicine model, we suggest that trainers incorporate six WECMC exercises by adding three of each to the two intense days. The best ones, are squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, snatches, cleans and jerks, power cleans, kettlebell cross-body cleans, kettlebell swings and squat-thrust-throw with a medicine ball.

You’ll have more, we know that trainers are quite imaginative in that regard.

What happens if we acquire and maintain a large and healthy supply of these mitochondria?

The short answer: everything.

Other than our joints, there is not a single process in our body that doesn’t run on mitochondrial power, and the cleaner and more efficient this is, the healthier we are, the slower we age and the longer we live.

For more information on the Quantitative Medicine approach to healthcare, diet and exercise (these excerpts barely scratch the surface) from Drs. Nichols and Davis:


20 minute interview with Drs. Nichols and Davis

Buy Quantitative Medicine

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