For many years, we have been told that exercise boosts our immune system, helps cognition and sleep, and maybe even extends our lives. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic actually studied this down to the cellular level, to determine how cells changed with different types of exercise. They actually found that high-intensity interval training was able to reverse the decline in our cells' ability to generate energy that occurs with aging.
In study reported in the journal Cell Metabolism of March 7, 2017, Dr. Sreekumaran Nair looked at two different age groups performing three different types of exercises. He took a cohort of younger people ages 18-30 years old and compared them to a group 65-80 years old, and assigned them to either high-intensity interval biking, strength training, or a combination of both. After three months, muscle biopsies were taken from their thigh muscles and they were compared to the muscles of sedentary volunteers. They also looked at the participant's muscle mass and insulin sensitivity, a marker for the development of diabetes.
Here is what they found: There is no doubt that strength training increases muscle mass more, but the high-intensity interval training, on the cellular level was more effective. Younger volunteers increased mitochondrial activity 49%, but the older exercisers increased mitochondrial activity 69%. Mitochondria are the power generator of the cell. The mitochondria take in nutrients and turns these nutrients into energy. It is known that the activity of mitochondria decreases as we age, which would decrease the ability of the muscle cell to metabolize sugars. This decline was reversed in the older group that did the interval training, and the results were similar to what was seen in the younger group. Oxygen consumption increased in the interval trainers vs. the weight trainers. The group that combined weight training and interval training demonstrated intermediate results. Additionally, they found that exercise increased protein production in the mitochondria, but also proteins that increased muscle mass.
Muscle cells don't multiply in the body, so maintaining the cells that we have is important, and even at older ages, we can still significantly build these cells and increase their metabolic function. Go for it!!
News and Technology, 7 March 2007, Best anti-aging exercise is high intensity interval
training, by Andy Coghlan
Cell Metabolism, Volume 25, Issue 3, p581, March 2017, Enhanced Protein Translation
Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training
Modes in Young and Old Humans
Science Daily, March 7, 2017. How exercise--Interval training in particular--helps your mitochondria stave off old age