Regular exercise has a rock-solid reputation for slowing the aging process and a new study points to HIT as the most effective of all. HIT stands for “high-intensity interval training” and is defined by very brief, but very vigorous bouts of aerobic activity alternating with longer intervals of light activity. For example, pedaling on a stationary bike all out for one minute followed by easy pedaling for 3 minutes and then repeating the sequence a few more intervals. In the first study of its kind, researchers had 36 men and women from two age groups—those 18-30 and those 65-80—engage in one of three different exercise regimens over 12 weeks: HIT on a stationary bike, HIT plus weight training, or weight training only. After the 12-week study the researchers took biopsies of the participants’ thigh muscles and compared them to sedentary study subjects. The results were telling.
While strength training was the most effective at increasing muscle mass and strength, HIT training was the most effective at reversing signs of aging at the cellular level. The younger subjects that engaged in HIT experienced a 49 percent increase in mitochondrial activity, while older subjects exhibited a 69 percent increase! Mitochondria are the energy producing factories within our cells, and many experts believe that loss of mitochondrial function is the lynchpin for what ages us at the cellular level. The researchers also noted that HIT improved the study subjects’ insulin sensitivity, which translates to less diabetes risk and better weight control.
HIT is rapidly emerging as the most effective of all forms of exercise. Perhaps the best part of HIT is that you can do it in much less time relative to other regimens. I strive to incorporate HIT at least twice a week in my daily exercise. (*Sedentary, unfit and individuals with chronic disease should always talk to their physician before beginning an exercise regimen.)
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(Cell Metabolism, 2017; 25 (3): 581 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.02.009