Take a ‘HIIT’ for the Fountain of Youth
While most people are aware that exercise can help reduce some of the negative health impacts of aging, new research says high-intensity workouts could potentially reverse the aging process itself.
A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health revealed that highintensity exercise can encourage cells to make more proteins to feed the body, which in turn can reverse many agerelated physical changes.
Researchers took two age groups, one ages 18 to 30, the other ages 65 to 80, and assigned each a different supervised exercise training program that included high-intensity and low-intensity exercise. Participants committed to the program for three months, and after each training session, researchers assessed their physiology, including BMI, lean muscle mass and insulin sensitivity. They found that the older group rebuilt more muscle tissue with high-intensity exercise.
As people age, the capacity of mitochondria to generate energy slowly decreases. These cell elements help power the body, and researchers believe that if exercise can restore the deterioration of mitochondria in muscle cells, there is a good chance it can restore other tissues. Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, senior author of the study and diabetes researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says while the younger group experienced a 49 percent increase in mitochondrial capacity, older participants saw a 69 percent increase.
“Exercise training, especially highintensity interval training (HIIT), enhanced the machinery (ribosomes) to produce proteins, increased the production of proteins and enhanced protein abundance in muscle,” Nair says.
Researchers say the ability of exercise to transform mitochondria could explain how it positively benefits health in so many different ways. HIIT also was found to improve the patients’ insulin sensitivity, which lowered their risk of diabetes. Nair says the findings were things that “cannot be done by any medicine” and that based on what they know, “there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the aging process.”
“With aging in sedentary people, production of many protein molecules decline. Gradually the quantity of these protein molecules decrease, causing functional decline,” Nair says.
While there are numerous studies highlighting how exercise generally can counteract some of the problems with aging, the study showed
that high-intensity exercise could be even more beneficial. Highintensity exercise is typically defined as between 80 and 90 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate. For an ordinary person, it’s an exertion of eight out of 10 on the Perceived Exertion Chart. Unlike with moderate intensity exercise, a person should have a very high heart rate and only be able to say a few words at a time while engaged in high-intensity exercise.
This type of training can include everything from running and stationary cycling to things like Zumba and boxing.
While high-intensity exercise can offer benefits, it can also carry risk, especially for older patients who could potentially have heart issues. Research published in the journal Heart in 2014 found that overdosing on high-intensity exercise may actually increase the risk of death from heart attack or stroke for in those with existing heart disease. German researchers studied participants in their 60s and found that those who did the most strenuous daily exercise were more than twice as likely to die of a heart attack or stroke. Researchers stressed the importance of exercise but said there is a “U-shaped” pattern where too much intense training could negate the positive effects of exercise.
According to the German researchers, “Maximum cardiovascular benefits are obtained if performed at moderate doses, while these benefits are lost with [very high] intensity and prolonged efforts.”
– Graig Guillot. © CTW Features