High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been a popular trend for some time now. It involves alternating short bursts of intense exercise with recovery periods of gentler activity. This type of training has been found to have a number of benefits, improving things such as blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and ability to regulate blood sugar. Now, a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism in March is reporting that HIIT can also reverse signs of aging at the cellular level.
The study involved 72 healthy but inactive adults in two different age groups: 18-30 and 65-80. Participants were assigned one of three exercise routines for 12 weeks — high-intensity interval cycling, strength training, or a combination of the two, with the HIIT routine being the most rigorous. All three groups saw health improvements such as muscle gain and better fitness levels, but the HIIT group had the greatest benefits at the cellular level.
It is important to note that reversing aging effects on cells does not necessarily mean the same thing as stopping the aging process or keeping one’s body looking “youthful.” It is still uncertain how these benefits at the cellular level affect things such as lifespan in the long term. While this study does provide evidence of the advantages of HIIT, the training should not be seen as a surefire way to slow the aging process.
So what does it actually mean to “reverse signs of aging” in cells? Mitochondria, which produce energy in cells, deteriorate in performance as the body ages. HIIT was found to undo some of this deterioration, increasing mitochondrial capacity by 49% in the younger age group and 69% in the older group. This is a dramatic rise, and greater mitochondrial capacity can improve the body’s overall health.
Another thing to note is that any exercise will provide some amount of benefit over being sedentary. While HIIT was stronger in some areas and brought some changes that the other routines did not, all the participants saw improvements in their health. Additionally, HIIT isn’t for everyone. There are several factors, such as a person’s health and fitness levels, that influence whether this type of routine is suitable or whether it will be too hard on the body. It is also important to start off slowly with any type of training and gradually increase in length and intensity, rather than immediately starting with a strenuous routine.
This HIIT study definitely has exciting implications, and helps to cement this type of training as a good option for those who can do it. However, more research is necessary to determine the extent of HIIT’s benefits and the effects it has on the body as a whole.
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