We all know that aging takes a huge toll on the body.
Most people notice the first changes in their body’s recovery time when tasked with physical exertion, followed by changes in appearance, loss in muscle mass….and so on.
What Happens When We Age
Aging takes a toll on the body that extends to the cellular level. Our muscles lose precious mitochondria – making them weaker and unable to regenerate as quickly as they did in our younger years.
However, results of a recent study published in Cell Metabolism suggest that we can reverse (or slow) years of damage to our mitochondria by performing specific exercises regimens consistently.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, analyzed the cells of 72 healthy participants under the age of 30 and older than 64 — each having reported living a sedentary lifestyle.
Baseline measures were established for each participant measuring their aerobic fitness, blood-sugar levels, gene activity, and mitochondrial health in muscle cells.
Once researchers had analyzed the physical health of each participant, they were tasked with following specific exercise regimens.
Some did vigorous weight training several times a week; some did brief interval training three times a week on stationary bicycles (pedaling hard for four minutes, resting for three, and then repeating that sequence three more times); some rode stationary bikes at a moderate pace for 30 minutes a few times a week and lifted weights lightly on other days. A fourth group, the control, did not exercise.
After 12 weeks, researchers repeated the lab tests. They found that most participants had experienced vast improvements in both their physical fitness and blood sugar levels.
They also noted that participants experienced different results based on the exercise regimen they were assigned. Namely, gains in muscle mass and strength were greater for those who exercised with only weights, while interval training had the strongest influence on endurance.
But, perhaps the most surprising results were found when they biopsied muscle cells. Among the younger subjects who went through interval training, activity levels had changed in 274 genes, compared with 170 genes for those who exercised more moderately, and 74 for the weight lifters. Among the older cohort, almost 400 genes operated differently post-exercise regimen, compared with 33 for the weight lifters, and only 19 for the moderate exercisers.
Many of the affected genes, especially in the cells of the interval trainers, are believed to influence the ability of mitochondria to produce energy for muscle cells; the subjects who did the interval workouts showed increases in the number and health of their mitochondria — an impact that was particularly pronounced among the older cyclists.
According to Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, Endocrinologist, and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, the results of this study suggest that the decline of cellular health in muscles associated with aging can be “corrected” with exercise. In fact, the cells in older participants responded more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the younger volunteers.
The big takeaway? It’s never too late to start exercising folks! Regardless of age, we hope these findings motivate you to lace up those sneakers and get those muscles working.
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