Let’s face it, aging isn’t always glamorous. As we get older, our metabolism begins to slow, our muscles weaken and we’re not as fast or agile as we used to be. Thankfully, research shows that exercise, especially high intensity interval training, or HIIT, can help prevent weight gain, improve muscle strength and reverse the signs of aging.
A new Mayo Clinic study indicates that high-intensity aerobic exercise can reverse some aspects of aging at the cellular level. In this study, researchers compared high-intensity interval training, resistance-only training, and combined exercise training in seventy-two healthy, but sedentary individuals for a twelve-week period. While all training types improved lean body mass and insulin sensitivity, only high-intensity interval training and combined training improved aerobic capacity and mitochondrial function.
In addition, high-intensity training caused muscle enlargement, especially in older adults. This is significant because as we age the mitochondria in our muscle cells function less efficiently; improving their function boosts metabolism and slows signs of aging.
While most health professionals encourage everyone to exercise on a regular basis, it seems that high-intensity training is best for aging adults. Since this type of exercise can contribute to more injuries, especially in the older athlete, it’s best to start out with a supervised plan and go slow.
If you’re new to HIIT training, try incorporating faster, shorter distances of your favorite exercise. For example, if you usually jog two miles, try jogging at a faster speed for 30 seconds, then walking for a few minutes to recover and repeat.
Rest assured that you don’t have to switch all your workouts to a high-intensity level, even one HIIT workout a week can provide metabolic benefits. Whatever your age, you’ll improve energy and feel younger.
Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.”