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Anti-aging effect of interval exercise we all need to know about

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Interval training is anti-aging and especially good over age 65, Mayo study finds.

Mayo Clinic researcher reveals what happens when older people exercise at high intensity intervals. The finding shows aerobic exercise performed in short intervals, known as HIIT, is anti-aging, which is something we all need to know.


The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism looked at the effect of various types of exercise in three groups of individuals to find HIIT or high intensity interval training, rejuvenates the energy capacity of mitochondria in the cells.

Those over age 65 had the greatest benefits from HIIT.

When we age mitochrondria decline in numbers and function.

Mitochrondria are organelles that are do a lot in terms of breaking down nutrients and providing energy at a cellular level. Our muscles need a lot of the organelles to stay strong and get work done. This is what mitochrondria look like.

Mitochondrial cell image

Energy exchange happens mostly in the inner membrane. More surface in the matrix of the cell means more efficiency.

The study

The Mayo Clinic researchers delegated 3 types of exercises to study participants - high-intensity interval training, resistance training and combined training.

All of the exercise regimens were beneficial for producing lean muscle mass and lowering insulin resistance, but only HIIT and combined training improved mitochondrial capacity and function.

Older study participants were able to increase muscle mass with a combination of strength training and high intensity interval exercises that were performed on a cycle for the study.

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"We encourage everyone to exercise regularly, but the take-home message for aging adults that supervised high-intensity training is probably best, because, both metabolically and at the molecular level, it confers the most benefits," says K. Sreekumaran Nair, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and senior researcher on the study.

Key findings that are important for older, aging adults and younger people who want to stay healthy throughout life include::

  • No matter what your age, exercise was shown to improve skeletal muscle gene expression
  • As we age mitochondrial function declines, but exercise can improve that
  • The effect of exercise for promoting protein synthesis in the cells is greatest for older adults
  • Aerobics, training plus aerobics and resistance training can all help keep diseases at bay by reducing insulin sensitivity, creating muscle mass and promoting cardiorespiratory health.

If you are over age 65 you can increase muscle strength with weight training a couple of days a week, combined with high intensity walking, running or cycling.

The idea that exercise can turn back the cellular aging clock isn’t entirely new. The Mayo Clinic team found more evidence of the benefits of HIIT. The finding pinpoints the best type of exercise for people over age 65 and reminds everyone else to keep moving.

Journal reference:

Cell Metabolism
"Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans"
Matthew M. Robinson, Surendra Dasari, Adam R. Konopka, Matthew L. Johnson, S. Manjunatha, Raul Ruiz Esponda, Rickey E. Carter, Ian R. Lanza, K. Sreekumaran Nair
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2017.02.009

More reading:

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3 Lifestyle changes that could reverse cellular aging

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