HIIT Exercise Improves Mitochondrial Health

We all know that exercise is important to a healthy body, and as we age, it becomes even more important for many reasons. From maintaining muscle tone and achieving optimal blood sugar levels to stronger bones and better mental health, physical activity and exercise are crucial to living a healthier life.

Throughout our lives, changes continually take place in our bodies from the skin to the cellular level, but these changes become more severe with age. Cells in older people have accumulated years of damage; these cells are weaker and their energy-producing mitochondria don’t regenerate as quickly or easily. And while most doctors and scientists understand the overall positive impact of exercise on the adult body, there has been no real knowledge about what types of exercise could possibly regenerate cells and those all-important mitochondria.

However, a study was recently conducted at the Mayo Clinic comparing the results of specific types of exercise on 72 sedentary but healthy volunteers consisting of two age groups:

  • ages 18-30
  • ages 65-80

People from both age groups were divided into four subdivisions. Three of these subdivisions were assigned a different type of exercise regimen:

  • high intensity interval training (HIIT) – short bursts of intense stationary bike pedaling
  • weight workouts twice a week
  • stationary bike exercise with weight workouts on alternate days

The fourth group was given no exercises at all and functioned as the control group.

These exercise regimens were followed for three months. Expected outcomes in all participants were realized, such as increased endurance, improved blood sugar levels and increased muscle mass.

But new information was discovered when results from the HIIT group showed that the mitochondria in cells had improved. Younger participants showed improvements in 274 genes, and older participants showed improvements in astounding 400 genes. (The two groups with weightlifting regimens also showed gene-related improvements, but to a far lesser degree.) Older participants’ cells showed a reversal in the decline of muscle-building proteins as well as improvements in mitochondrial health, increases in mitochondrial numbers and rejuvenation of the protein building blocks called ribosomes. All of which means that HIIT exercising actually halted aging at the cellular level by enabling cells to increase protein production for energy-producing mitochondria and protein-building ribosomes.

This study confirms the fact that you’re never too old to improve your health; in fact, the right types of vigorous exercise can reverse aging at the cellular level even more in older adults. For younger adults, incorporating high intensity interval training into their daily exercise routine can help slow the effects of aging and, quite possibly, make them healthier and more active as they age.

Before starting any exercise routine, including one of high intensity aerobic exercises, talk to your doctor about the safest way to approach exercising for your body and health; this is especially important if your lifestyle is generally more sedentary.

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