Could HIIT Training Be The Fountain of Youth?

Since the dawn of time, we have been searching for that magic cure for aging. Researchers at Mayo Clinic have found out that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) could make a huge difference in the anti-aging goal. It is well established that metabolism declines with age, especially with sedentary adults.

While no one will dispute that any exercise or movement is better than nothing (see article Is There Any Benefit to Working Out Once A Week?), HIIT training will really make a difference. HIIT training refers to short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by longer stretches of low to moderate intensity exercises. Journal of Cell Metabolism reported that researchers compared mitochondrial capacity of young adults vs. older adults. The researchers discovered that younger people (18-30 years old) showed a 49% increase in mitochondrial capacity after beginning a HIIT training program. Older adults (65-80 years old) saw even more benefits. A 69% increase over their previous numbers.

Mitochondria is defined by "Biology-Online" as the “powerhouse of the cell since they act as the site to produce high-energy compounds (e.g. ATP), which are vital energy source for several cellular processes.

"Based on everything we know, there's no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the aging process," said Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, senior author of the study and a Mayo diabetes researcher. "These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine."

The study, funded by the National Institute of Health, had groups of younger and older volunteers participate. The subjects were divided into three supervised exercise training programs that lasted three months. The HIIT group participated in 3 days of week of cycling, with high intensity bouts alternating with low-intensity pedaling, and two days of week of moderately difficult treadmill walking. The strength training group worked out with weights for lower and upper body muscles for two days a week, while the third group cycled and lifted weights five days a week but less strenuously than the other two groups.

Researchers found out that the strength training group was most effective at building muscle mass and improving strength but the groups that participated in HIIT earned the best results at the cellular level. HIIT seemed to reverse the age-related decline in both mitochondrial function and muscle-building proteins.

What did Dr. Sreekumaran Nair suggest?

I would recommend high-intensity interval training, but I think it would be more beneficial if they do three or four days of interval training and then a couple of days of strength training.

What are you to do?

Incorporate some form of HIIT training in your workout program. While strength training is vital for an older adult to engage in (building muscle mass and strength), you must incorporate some form of HIIT in your workout. Any kind of sprint can do. Sprinting does not have to be limited to an all-out 100-meter Olympic Gold Medal event but a difficult walk on the treadmill or riding a stationary bike. The key is reaching maximal exertion such as pedaling with more resistance than normal. HIIT training not only will be more effective at the cellular level but according to Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, it will delay the aging process!


Steven Zahn

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