Study Reveals the Best Exercise for Aging Muscles

As we know, aging causes massive changes inside the body. We’re used to noticing wrinkles, fine lines, and gray hair, but down to the smallest parts of our cells, things are shifting.

In other words, every part of us ages! Yes, our metabolism slows down significantly, but our muscle cells also grow weaker as we get older. However, it looks like scientists are making headway in learning how to reverse muscle deterioration.

How? Through good ol’ exercise. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic conducted a 12-week study on two age groups of adults, with one group whose ages were 30 and under and the other 64 and over.

Published in 2017 in Cell Metabolism, the experiment divided them into four groups and examined the effects of various workout routines on cellular activity.

One group followed a weight training routine a few times a week. Another group engaged in interval training using a stationary bike three times a week. This involved high-impact pedaling for 3-4 minutes at a time followed by slower pedaling and continued in a cycle. A third group alternated between 30 minutes of stationary bikes and weight lifting. And another group did not exercise at all.

When it was time to compare results, the research team was encouraged by what they saw. Though weight lifters gained muscle mass, those who practiced interval training experienced the most changes to their genes.

But the highest gene response was seen in the older adults – specifically with mitochondrial activity, where they started to function again after degenerating. At an increase of about 70%, they beat out the youngsters by roughly 20%.

Healthy mitochondria is connected to your longevity and overall cell health. What does this mean? Interval training is highly beneficial as we age. Called HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), all it entails is doing an activity with alternating levels of energy.

For example, if you take a 30-minute walk, you could walk at a fast pace for 2 minutes, walk slowly for 3, and then kick it back up to fast pace for 2 minutes again. You would continue such a pattern for the entire duration of your workout. It’s up to you how long you want your intervals to be for each speed.

If you want to do 4 minutes of high-intensity and 2 minutes of slow (or rest), it’s your choice. HIIT helps increases energy and burn calories but it’s also a catalyst for cell growth that keeps you young and healthy.

As far as muscle growth, you will see gains, but more dramatic results will be had by incorporating a weight training routine as well. Cycling, walking, jogging, or planks are all great ways to do a HIIT workout.

Before trying out a HIIT plan, be sure to consult with your physician to discuss any potential health complications. You might wind up loving the effects of this workout on your body, and love the reward of resting from it too.

Were you aware of interval training and its effects on older adults? Have you ever tried a HIIT workout? Would you be willing to try one now?


Mayo Clinic

New York Times