Exercise has long been known to stave off some of ill effects of aging, but a specific type of workout has been pinpointed as the best form for older adults. High-intensity interval training can be particularly beneficial for older adults because of the effect it has at the cellular level, according to a study published earlier in March in the journal Cell Metabolism.
The study compared three groups of people doing different forms of exercise including high-intensity training, moderate aerobic exercise and strengthening exercises, to see which would be most beneficial. High-intensity workouts, which combine intense bouts of exercise with lower intensity periods, were found to reverse the aging process that takes place at the cellular level by boosting the productivity of mitochondria, the bodies within cells that break down nutrients for energy.
There are few hard and fast rules for high-intensity interval training: methods can vary depending on the person’s needs and abilities, according to the American Council on Exercise. Lead researcher K. Sreekumaran Nair, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said that older adults should be cautious in proceeding with such workouts.
“If you’re sedentary, you should talk to your doctor before you start exercising,” said Nair, according to Medical Xpress. “And then you can start walking and build yourself up to a fast pace.”
Nair also said that all exercise is good exercise and no matter what the workout, it will have benefits of some sort. According to a study published in January, women who maintained any sort of active lifestyle aged slower than those who were sedentary. Researchers found that longer periods of activity were associated with longer telomeres, the caps on the end of the DNA strands that protect chromosomes from eroding.
“Discussions about the benefits of activity should start when we are young,” lead researcher Aladdin Shadyab of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine told BBC News in January. “Physical activity should continue to be part of our daily lives as we get older, even at 80 years old.”