If only that were the case. Since the beginning of time, mankind has sought a way to stay young and fight off the effects of age. From the milk baths of Cleopatra to Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth to modern anti-aging serums and creams, all of us are looking for ways to live just a little longer.
Turns out High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is as good as it gets. A study published in Cell Metabolism detailed the benefits of all aerobic exercise, but with a focus on HIIT exercise. The study found that HIIT exercise helps to increase mitochondrial activity, leading to greater energy production within the cells. The exercise also increases the ribosomes that produce protein. The combination of the two (more energy and more protein) leads to better cellular function, which may prevent aging.
Age takes its toll on your body in many ways: reduced digestive function, organ function, hormone production, eye function, brain function, and the list goes on. At the cellular level, aging reduces the efficiency of your energy and protein production (the job of mitochondria and ribosomes). The more our bodies age, the less energy our cells produce.
But with high-intensity exercise, you can reverse this decrease in energy production. Scientists found that exercise actually causes the cells to make more RNA copies of the mitochondrial proteins and the other proteins that play a role in muscle growth. It also helped the ribosomes to increase mitochondrial production, which in turn led to higher production of the proteins required for muscle building. More proteins equal more muscle growth equals more energy storage equals more muscular strength and power.
High-intensity exercise already has a pretty impressive list of benefits: everything from increased immune function to better organ function to a faster metabolic rate to increase cardiovascular capacity. Adding increased muscle growth and decreased aging to the list is just one more great reason to give HIIT a try.
The study even matched HIIT exercise with resistance training and found that HIIT blew resistance training out of the park—at least for anti-aging effects. The cellular growth caused by resistance training was significantly less than that caused by HIIT.
“Based on everything we know, there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the aging process,” said study senior author Sreekumaran Nair, a medical doctor and diabetes researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine.”
Nair and his colleagues hope to find out more about how exercise benefits different tissues throughout the body. They are also looking into ways that clinicians may be able to target the pathways that confer the most benefits. However, for the time being, vigorous exercise remains the most effective way to bolster health.
1. 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. “Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans.” Cell Metabolism, 2017; 25 (3): 581 DOI.