Exercise better than medicine for anti-aging

Combining strength training with HIIT cardio fights the effects of aging, study finds.

A new study has found that exercise — and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in particular — is great at delaying the aging process.

Exercise causes cells to create more proteins for their mitcochondria, where energy is produced, and for their ribosome, whose job is to synthesise proteins. This slows down the aging process at the cellular level.

“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, a senior author of the study published in Cell Metabolism. “These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine.’

Researchers took 36 men and 36 women from two age groups — a younger group (18–30 years) and an older group (65–80 years) — and divided them into three different exercise programs. One group performed high-intensity interval biking; another performed weight training; and the third combined weight training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is alternating periods of short, intense exercise with longer, less intense periods, which allows your body to recover. For example, completing 30 seconds of intense training on the Lifecycle then switching to one minute of recovery on the treadmill before heading back to the bike for another round.

After the trial period, researchers took biopsies from the participants’ thigh muscles and compared the muscle cells’ molecular make-up, insulin sensitivity and lean muscle mass to samples from sedentary participants.

The results showed that all three varieties of exercise were effective at improving health and fitness, though each was better at accomplishing different things The high-intensity training increased the volunteers’ mitochondrial capacity — 49 per cent in the young group; 69 per cent in the old group — and also improved their insulin sensitivity, lowering their likelihood of developing diabetes.

As you might expect, the weight training was best at building muscle mass and improving strength, which the HIIT was less effective at. Strength naturally declines with age, so a combination of weights and HIIT seems to be a good choice based on this study.

“If people have to pick one exercise, I would recommend high-intensity interval training, but I think it would be more beneficial if they could do three-to-four days of interval training and then a couple days of strength training,” says Dr. Nair.

Future research in this area will look at how exercise benefits different kinds of tissue throughout the body and its further effects on anti-aging.

“There are substantial basic science data to support the idea that exercise is critically important to prevent or delay aging,” says Dr. Nair. “There’s no substitute for that.”

Robinson, M. et al. (2017). ‘Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans.’ Cell Metabolism. Volume 25 , Issue 3 , 581 – 592. Published online March 7, 2017.

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