Exercise to beat cancer, disease, and aging

This article was written and published on GarmaOnHealth.com by Joe Garma, and has been reproduced here in its entirety.

Your chance of getting some sorta chronic disease is pretty big. Simply put, you can age better and substantially reduce your chance of becoming chronically ill by exercising.  Here’s why and how.

age better

Credit: http://iamupperechelon.com/the-fab-four-exercise-for-baby-boomers/

ABOUT A week ago, I was reading the findings of a new British study that concluded:

“Men who played sports in mid-life were more likely to be active in old age than those who did other types of physical activity in mid-life. That was especially true of those who played sports for many years.” (1)

That got me wondering about what other age-related issues could be prevented or ameliorated by exercise – and not just for men, but women as well, of course.

So, I googled around and peeked at some other articles I’ve written on the subject, and can now definitely say something you already know:

To age better, you must get off your duff and exercise!

Yes, stating the obvious. Exercise is important. But what might not be blatant is just how important consistent exercise should you wish to live a long and strong life without many of the chronic, age-related diseases that much of the U.S. population suffers from.

Indeed, chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States:
  • 133 million Americans – 45% of the population – have at least one chronic disease.
  • Chronic diseases are responsible for seven out of ever 10 deaths in the U.S., killing more than 1.7 million Americans every year.
  • Chronic diseases can be disabling and reduce a person’s quality of life, especially if left undiagnosed or untreated. For example, every 30 seconds a lower limb is amputated as a consequence of diabetes. (2)

You don’t have to one of the 45%!

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Why sport might be better than plain ole exercise;
  • The longevity hormone boosted by exercise;
  • Why exercise can reduce your chances of getting cancer and diabetes; and
  • How five simple exercises will make you age better.

Let’s dig in…


Age Better By Picking An Invigorating Sport and Don’t Let Go

Let’s begin with that British study mentioned above, because it speaks to the general notion that exercise improves our experience of life in our golden years. Later in this piece, I’ll get to specific health issues improved by exercise, such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.

If you had to squeeze the conclusions of the British study into a nutshell, it would be anti-aging medical expert Dr. Ronald Klatz’s statement about anti-aging efforts,

“Nothing replaces activity and movement.” (1)

In this case, the health of 3,500 British men was evaluated for 20 years. Here’s a summary of the findings:

  • Those who were physically active in mid-life were nearly three times more likely to be active at the end of the study period.
  • Those who played sports in mid-life were more likely to be active in old age than those who did other types of physical activity in mid-life.
  • Men who played sports for 25 years or more were nearly five times more likely to be physically active in old age than those who didn’t play sports.

I no longer play sports with any consistency, relying instead on exercising by myself; therefore I was particularly interested in the conclusion that those who played sports in mid-life as opposed to those who did other types of physical activity (perhaps like I do) were more likely to be active in old age.

Why would that be, I wondered?

The authors of the study explained it this way:

“One possibility is that people’s enjoyment of sport may be more likely to persist into old age than preferences for other types of activity.”

Makes sense to me. Thankfully, I actually enjoy working out by myself, but surely if you can find a sport to engage in with others that is fun, compliance (doing it on a regular basis) will be higher.

My last point about this study before I move onto how exercise improves specific age-related chronic conditions that befall so many of us is that there’s no reason why the conclusions of this British study would not pertain to women.

They do.


Physical Exercise Boosts Concentration of Longevity Hormone

Klohto is a longevity hormone that delays aging, reduces age-related symptoms and helps us to stay fit and healthy in old age. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh reportthat physical exercise can help increase the amount of this hormone the body produces.

Klotho circulates around the body in two free forms – alpha and beta klotho. It’s not currently known what beta-klotho does, but alpha-klotho functions as a rejuvenating hormone.

Muscles produce klotho, and exercise speeds up the metabolic rate of muscle cells. So are active muscles capable of producing more klotho if they get more exercise?

That’s the question at hand.

To answer it, the University of Pittsburg researchers performed studies on both young and old mice and young and old(er) women. (After all, women don’t get old, only radiant.)

With mice, it was clear that “age attenuated” exercise intensity (meaning, younger mice exercise with more intensity than their older brethren), was directly correlated with the production of klotho.

But with the women, the results were more nuanced:

“These differences in training intensity may confound the age-related differences in the response of klotho to acute exercise and further clinical studies are warranted.” (3)

Taken together, these findings in murine [mice] and human models suggest that exercise is a potent stimulus to increase plasma klotho levels, but that the response may be dependent on physical fitness level as well as age”, the researchers wrote. (3)

The bottom line:

  • You must get the exercise intensity right to increase klotho, perhaps similarly to how high intensity interval training (HIIT) is required to boost Human Growth Hormone.
  • Exercise intensity requires a baseline level of physical conditioning, so perhaps the klotho increase in the women studied were not as consistent as they were for the mice because the older women could not exercise with sufficient intensity.


Exercise Reduces the Chance You’ll Get Cancer

According to recent epidemiological studies, approximately 40% of cancers can be prevented by avoiding unhealthy environments and lifestyles. (4)

Forty percent is a debatable number. The LA Times reports that bad luck in combination with random DNA errors is responsible for two-thirds of cancer mutations; whereas the The Washington Post wrote about a study that said up to 90% of cancers are due to lifestyle choices and the environment.

The spread between 40 and 90% is wide, but even 40% is a big enough potential for me to take seriously and act on the possibility that I can influence the outcome.  The science says I can, and you can, through exercise.

Physical exercise may improve lung cancer survival chances

As reported by ergo-log.com, lung cancer is one of the most fatal forms of cancer — Only 15% of patients are alive after five years after being diagnosed.

The good news: That percentage may increase if lung cancer patients get more exercise, suggests an animal study that American oncologists at Emory University published in 2014 in Cancer. (5)

According to the study, physical exercise activates the anti-cancer p53 gene, which has become deactivated in many forms of cancer that are difficult to treat.

Here’s the summary of the Emory University study’s findings:

“Targeting tumor suppressors by pharmacologic means has proven to be difficult, but exercise appears to be a promising anticancer therapy that improves p53 tumor suppressor function.” (5)

This bar chart tells the tale:

The bar chart shows that exercise activated much more of the “suicide enzyme” caspase-3 in the mice that exercised. This enzyme is normally activated by the p53 anti-cancer gene, a gene that is damaged in about half of the tumors of people with lung cancer, and in many other tumors the gene no longer functions well because of other damage.

Strong muscles protect against cancer

More than 10,000 men were studied over the course of 25-plus years.

The bottom line:

Men who could shift heavier weights with bench presses and leg presses were less likely to die from cancer. (6)

Yes, again, this was an all-men study, but the conclusions are pertinent to women. That nonsense about women needing to lift weights differently than men or they’ll bulk up is nonsense.

Muscle is muscle in both genders, the primary difference being the amount of testosterone in men and women, which is largely why men can grow more muscle mass than women.

In any event, this studies finding is relevant to both genders:

  • If you have average or high muscular strength your chance of developing cancer is 30% lower than if your strength level is low.
  • Muscle strength reduces the chance of developing a fatal form of cancer regardless of your body weight.
  • Best of all is being fit and strong: if you’re not fit, the protective effect of your muscular strength is less.
  • Promoting regular resistance training involving the major muscle groups of the upper and lower extremities at least two days per week can reduce cancer mortality death rates.
  • Resistance and aerobic exercise should complement each other.

The researchers think that the protective effect of muscle mass comes from the fact that muscle cells remove anabolic hormones from the body. The hormones that are responsible for muscle growth, such as IGF-1, also stimulate the growth of tumors.

Every intensive exercise session kills cancer cells

Sports scientists at the University of Copenhagen performed experiments with blood samples taken from women who were being treated for breast cancer.

This is what they found:

“Every time you do intensive exercise, your body produces substances that kill cancer cells. The effect of a single session is limited, but the effect of a lifestyle that has included intensive exercise several times a week for years on end is probably considerable.” (7)

The women did an intensive training session that included strength and cardio training once a week over a six-month period.


Exercise Can Reduce Your Chances of Getting Diabetes

Blood sugar is not kind to us as we get older. Depending on the source, anywhere from 90 to 100 ng/dL is in the pre-diabetic range.

Notice in the graph below that the typical 60 year old is right on the cusp:

Blood sugar increases with age, as does diabetes.

Source: http://joshmitteldorf.scienceblog.com/2016/09/16/nutritional-geometry-2-carb-restriction/

I’ve written several articles about type 2 diabetes and high blood sugar and was concerned about my own before my doctor told me that I was a nutty hypochondriac and he wished his blood sugar numbers (fasting, postprandial and hemoglobin A1c) were as good as mine.

Harvard University did a blood sugar/type 2 diabetes study. They found that combining strength training with an active lifestyle could reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes by a third or more, depending on what specifically you’re doing:

  • You could reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes by a third with half an hour of strength training per day, or three 50-minute sessions per week.
  • You could reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes by 60% if you add some aerobic conditioning to your strength-training regimen, such as cycling, swimming, jogging or even walking.

This is good news to people who don’t have access to a pool or bike, and have joint issues preventing them from jogging, for although such aerobic exercises can help prevent type 2 diabetes, all you need to considerably lowering your chances of getting it is strength training.

Don’t belong to the gym, nor have a set of weights?

Well, presuming you have a body, that’s all you need, as I’ll address next.


Age Better With These 5 Exercises

At this point, I hope you’re convinced that regular exercise is one of, if not the most important keys to increasing your healthspan, and perhaps your lifespan, too.

You’ve seen that your exercise routine should include strength and aerobic training. If you’re confounded about how to put together an exercise regime, read on.

Outside Magazine has a pretty good summary of simple five-exercise strength routine that you may do with minimal equipment, or none at all.

These are the five exercises:

  1. Pull-up
  2. Goblet Squat
  3. Push-up
  4. Standing Lunge/Split Squat
  5. Single Leg Deadlift

The order of these five exercises is purposeful. Together, they will workout your entire body, moving from an upper body movement to a lower body movement, which if done with minimal rest we have the greatest metabolic, fat-burning, anaerobic/aerobic (depending on intensity) effects.

“This workout hits four major basic movements: push, pull, squat, and hinge,” comments Michael Lord, a sports chiropractor who treats and trains elite athletes in Northern California. “It also uses full ranges of motions, so it’s accomplishing mobility work within a strength routine.” (8)

Before I get into each of the five, here are some pointers about sets, reps, rest and frequency relative to what you’re trying to achieve:

To get aerobically fit, make the exercises easy enough to do so that you can cycle through them with minimal rest, or none, the objective being to maintain a fairly steady heartbeat relative to your age. (Here’s how to calculate that.)

♦ To get anaerobically fit, perform the exercises at a rep range and degree of difficulty that makes you breathe laboriously as your muscles begin to quiver.  So, for instance, you’d blast through each exercise, back-to-back with minimal rest, doing each in a way that’s difficult for you.

To get strong and build muscle, do the exercises with a degree of difficulty such that you can only do between five and eight reps or less per exercise, resting between them sufficiently to be able to do the prescribed reps.

Now, let’s examine how to do each exercise.

1. Pull-up

Few people who do not regularly practicing pulling exercises are strong enough to do a pull-up without assistance.

If that’s you, don’t despair.

You can use bands, like the Lifeline Pull-up  or have a friend hold your legs and give you a boost.

Or you can forget about a pull-up bar, per se, and instead place a broom or dole between two chairs facing each other, or any other two properly positioned, stable, elevated surfaces.

Stretch out under the “broom” such that when you pull up to it, your chests touches the broom. Aid yourself with your feet, if needed.

Note that you’re strongest with your hands in the neutral grip, then supinated and lastly pronated.

Here’s Scooby coaching you through it:


2. Goblet Squat

Look around the gym and you’ll see people doing squats with horrible form. The Goblet Squat kind of forces you to do a proper squat.

Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, feet pointing slightly out. Hold a kettlebell by the “horns”, or a dumbbell close to your chest. Squat down, keeping your heels on the ground and your knees tracking over your feet. At the lowest point, your butt should be parallel to or just below your knees. Then squeeze your glutes and push up to a standing positioning.

If you don’t have a kettlebell or dumbbell, grab a pail of water. If you’ve never or have done very little squatting before, you’re body weight will suffice.

Marc Lobliner explains how to do a Goblet squat:


3. Push Up

 There’s gotta be at least 50 ways to do push ups, but you just need to know (and do) a few… or maybe just one kind… to build some strength in your chest and anterior deltoids.

Begin with your chest down on the floor, palms pressing into the ground, thumbs at or a little outside of your nipples, perhaps your hands rotated out a bit if that’s comfortable. Press up, making sure that your elbows are neither pressed against your body nor out perpendicular to it, but somewhere between these extremes. Gently lock your elbows at the top. Lower your back all the way down, so your chest hovers just a centimeter or two off the ground. Press up again. Repeat. Be sure to tuck in your stomach and keep your core tight throughout the movement so you have minimal arch in your spine. Do not let your head hang… lead with your chest.

Let fitness pro Jeff Cavalier show you some variations:

4. Standing Lunge/Split Squat

To do the Standing Lunge (sometimes referred to as the Split Squat), stand straight, toes pointing forward, feet about six to eight inches apart. If you’re using dumbbells to increase the challenge, hold an equal weight in each hand at your sides, arms straight. Step forward with either foot so your knee is above your ankle. Push through the heel of the forward leg to return to an upright standing positioning. Repeat, this time stepping down with the opposite leg.

Tala does a pretty good job of demonstrating the Split Squat, though I suggest that your knee NOT come so far forward over the toe:


5. Single Leg Deadlift

This is one of my favorite movements. I find it gives my glutes and lower back a good workout and improves balances, something very important to maintain as we age.

Stand on one leg, keeping your knee slightly bent. If you’re using one dumbbell, hold it on the same side as the leg you’re standing on. Bend forward at the hip, extending your free leg straight behind you for balance. Continue lowering until your chest is parallel with the ground, dumbbell almost touching the floor. Then press back to an upright position.

As you get stronger, try using a lighter dumbbell in the hand opposite of your standing leg. This will workout your core powerfully, so start light and only after you’ve become adept with the basic move.

Here’s a demo:


If you’d like to check out more exercise options, I’ve written many, including these:


With all that said about exercise, if perchance you’d rather drop dead than exercise, well, rather than that, simply relax.


A Simple Relaxation Technique with Anti-aging Effects

Researchers at the University of Shahrekord in Iran discovered that muscular progressive relaxation exercises reduce fatigue, increase vitality, improve daily physical functioning, help the brain to work better and increase emotional stability, reports ergo-log.com.

The researchers got 30 people with an average age of 65 to perform muscular progressive relaxation exercises three times a week for three months.

During the 45-minute sessions, the participants tensed different muscle groups in turn and then relaxed them.

The relaxation exercises made the participants physically and psychologically fitter. They reported that they found it easier to do everyday physical activity and that relaxation reduced aches and pains. In addition the participants felt they had more vitality. Cognitive processes and memory improved, their emotional stability increased and the percentage of participants with serious fatigue was reduced.

Thus, if you’re allergic to exercise or feel you’re too old or compromised to try it, take heart with the researchers conclusion:

“Regarding the findings of the present study, we can conclude that the elderly quality of life could be promoted, their fatigue severity can be mitigated, their independence in doing daily activities is further increased, and finally, they can help achieve a prosperous and healthy aging through implementing a regular program of progressive muscle relaxation.” (9)


Your Takeaway

You need to find a way to move, frequently, regularly and under resistance (body weight, dumb bell, barbell, kettlebell)

Of course, you need to start with where you’re at.  Perhaps that means walking and doing some basic strength conditioning like pushing yourself away from a wall until you get strong enough to do knee-on-the-floor push-ups, progressing on to regular push-ups. Likewise with all the five exercises I showed you.

Nothing we know of will do more to give you a relatively pain-free, disease-free and mobile golden years as exercise, so get to it.

This article was written and published on GarmaOnHealth.com by Joe Garma, and has been reproduced here in its entirety.

The Importance of Exercise Intensity

Exercise is a uniquely beneficial health practice, one that improves health, decreases mortality, and that just generally improves overall quality of life. Anyone who exercises regularly knows the feeling of well-being that exercise causes, both during it and afterwards. But there are obviously both different kinds of exercise, and different levels of intensity. To improve physical fitness, the goal of exercise, one must pay attention to the importance of exercise intensity.

What exercise does

The effects of exercise are many. Exercise

  • improves insulin sensitivity
  • increases cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max)
  • increases strength of bones and muscle
  • decreases risk of cardiovascular disease
  • decreases cancer risk
  • improves mental health
  • prevents frailty and decline in aging
  • helps weight control.

All of these effects are intertwined and can’t be readily separated.

The effects of exercise can be viewed according to the FITT principle: frequency, intensity, time (duration), and type.

For frequency, intensity, and duration, in general, the more the better, but it’s possible to overdo it. Why is that? Because exercise means the placing of stress on the body with the aim of improving health, and is therefore a form of hormesis, in which a low dose of a stressor or toxin results in better health and stress resistance. As such, exercise is characterized by the J-curve typical of hormesis; see chart below. (Source.)

Image result for exercise j-curve


A low to moderate amount of exercise improves health compared to being sedentary, while a very high amount (such as hard daily training at elite level athletics, or ultramarathon running, for example) can lead to overtraining and worse health. In this article, we’ll be concerned with how much exercise is necessary rather than with excessive exercise and overtraining.

Since exercise is by definition a stress, any physical activity that does not place a stress on the body doesn’t improve fitness. While any physical activity itself can improve health and is far better than being sedentary, aerobic (cardiorespiratory) fitness is a much stronger determinant of health. See chart below – aerobic capacity is twice as strong a reducer of cardiovascular risk as is physical activity.



Therefore, to lower your health risks, just moving around isn’t enough. The activity you do must be intense enough, or long enough, or frequent enough, or some combination of these, to increase fitness. Type of exercise is also important, since some forms of exercise are inherently more demanding than others. Boxing, for example, places a greater demand on the body than zumba.

Levels of exercise

Intensity of exercise appears partially to override the factors of frequency and duration. For example, higher intensity exercise improves aerobic fitness more than lower intensity, even when duration is adjusted so the the same number of calories are burned.

High-intensity interval training improves cardiorespiratory fitness as much or more than traditional steady-state aerobic exercise, in far less time.

In bodybuilding, other things equal, intensity trumps volume and frequency.

Low intensity exercise improves fitness only in people with a low level of fitness.  This is an important point.

Walking, for example, improves insulin sensitivity in obese, type 2 diabetics. These people have a low fitness level and high insulin resistance, and walking therefore represents enough of a stress on their bodies to improve their health.

Now, suppose you’re a regular reader of this site, you lift weights and/or do other forms of high-intensity training, you are of normal weight and have good insulin sensitivity. Will walking improve your health further?

Not likely. You need either more frequent exercise of the same intensity you’re already doing, a longer duration of it, or an even higher intensity.

Fitness level determines whether an exercise improves it

If you have low aerobic fitness, almost any exercise will help. Someone who’s been ill and in bed for a long time will improve just by getting out of bed. Likewise, walking can improve the fitness of someone who’s overweight and sedentary.

But how can we determine whether a given bout of exercise improves our fitness or not? In other words, how can we put this matter on a more scientific basis?

Exercise physiologists have done this, and have determined that exercise intensities below 45% of VO2 reserve in subjects with high fitness do not increase fitness, while for those with low fitness, at least 30% of VO2 reserve is necessary.

So, what’s VO2 reserve? It’s the difference between resting oxygen consumption (VO2) and maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max). VO2 reserve differs greatly between fit and less fit individuals.

In the real world, without the assistance of an exercise physiologist, probably the best way to look at exercise intensity is through metabolic equivalents, or METs.

One MET is the amount of energy expended at rest. Different types and intensities of exercise can be expressed in multiples of METs.


Image result for mets exercise chart

The above chart shows some sample exercises in terms of METs. A more comprehensive list can be found here.

High-intensity vs steady-state exercise

Steady-state exercise (“aerobics” or “cardio”) has long been prescribed as the exercise that uniquely increases cardiorespiratory fitness, but we now know that high-intensity exercise does that as well, and in less time.

One problem with steady-state exercise, such as jogging or treadmill running, is that the only way to increase the exercise stress is by increasing the duration of exercise. You see this method of training in distance runners, for example, who end up running for hours daily to increase the amount of training they do.

In contrast, using high-intensity training, you are always working out at the edge of your physiological capabilities.

So, with high-intensity training, there’s never a question whether you’re exercising intensely enough to increase your fitness, because you are always doing so.


Low-intensity exercise improves fitness only for those who are not fit. As you move up the fitness ladder, exercise needs to become more intense to improve fitness.

The Anti-aging Effects of Exercise

This article was written and published on GarmaOnHealth.com by Joe Garma, and has been reproduced here in its entirety.


Scientific studies show that exercise is the fountain of youth, because there are several, specific anti-aging effects of exercise.  Here’s the story…

THERE’S A lot of science being targeted at the perennial questions about why we age, and what can be done to slow it down.

Way down!

Some of the studies on aging include therapeutic interventions, such as caloric restriction, stem cells, hormonal anti-aging therapy, antioxidants and the activation of biochemical pathways like sirtuins.

The famous futurist, inventor, and newly appointed Google Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, argues that in a couple of decades — not centuries – science will enable humans to merge with machines to become cyborg-like and enjoy lives of indefinite life spans.

{Read Ray Kurzweil’s March to Extend Life.}

Kurzweil has popularized a concept of  “three bridges” to immortality that a person will enjoy pretty much as a cyborg, part human, part machine.


Three Bridges to Immortality

Bridge 1

You eat right, ingest a bunch of supplements, and avoid getting hit by a bus, and if you’re healthy enough by time “Bridge 2” is built, and get on it, you’ll have the opportunity to live longer than anybody has before. So, the goal while on Bridge 1 is to preserve yourself long enough for Bridge 2 to be built.

Bridge 2

Here, use of gene therapy, stem cells, therapeutic cloning and replacement cells, tissues and organs will enable us to reverse our biological clocks.  You’ll live longer than any other generation while walking on Bridge 2, but what you seek is Bridge 3.

Bridge 3

This is the Promised Land, immortality!  Bridge 3 is where, Ray Kurzweil predicts, the merger of nanotech and artificial intelligence happens. He envisions that programmable, communicating nanobots will replace old-fashioned neurons and blood cells with more efficient units that can destroy infections, reverse degenerative changes and rewrite genetic code.

I have no way of knowing if Mr. Kurzweil’s predictions will happen.  What I do believe is that I’ve been skipping along on Bridge 1 for 30 years, with increasing devotion as my clock ticks, and what I’m doing seems to be working.

Basically, my live long and strong kick is comprised of nutrition, supplementation, detox cleansing, meditation, intimacy and exercise, the very strategies that Kurzweil and his writing partner, Dr. Terry Grossman, wrote in their book, Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever.


Getting into all the aspects of what it takes to age well is beyond the ken of this post, for such would fill a book. But suffice to say, one straightforward thing to do that makes a big difference is to exercise.

It is the value of exercise on longevity that is the focus of the rest of this post. Turns out, exercise is the fountain of youth. There are several, specific anti-aging effects of exercise that you’ll want to know about.


The Anti-aging Effects of Lifelong Exercise

To explain how and why exercise is the one sure-fired thing you can do now to slow down the aging process, I’ll do you the favor of summarizing and (hopefully) making more readable a scientific report by the Journal of Applied Physiology called, I am 80 going on 18: exercise and the fountain of youth

The bottom line of the report:

Maximal oxygen uptake (V̇o2 max ) in 80-year olds who were former athletes, and have remained physically active all their lives, was nearly twice that of otherwise healthy sedentary 80-year olds.

“Oxygen uptake”, or  V̇o2 max, measures cardiorespiratory fitness, which is an important indicator of mortality.

Another important indicator of health among the athletic group was body fat, of which they had less, although no stats were provided on percent body fat.

OK, so the athletic group was less fat and was more fit, as measured in ways that are predictive of a longer lifespan than their non-exercising counterparts.  But is it reasonable to suggest that they’re may be other factors to consider that impact these outcomes?

Yes, three questions come to mind:

  1. Are the genetics of the athletes responsible for their large compliant hearts with big stroke volumes?
  2. How did the athletes remain motivate to exercise all their lives?
  3. Are there additional benefits accruing to fit elders that may be instigated by their fitness regime?


The Genetics of Older Athletes Only Get Them So Far

It appears that the answer to question #1 above is yes, at least partially.

The authors of this study say that it’s reasonable to anticipate that perhaps 50% of the difference in V̇o2 max seen in the 80-yr-old athletes vs. non-athletes might be due to their baseline physiological endowment.

Meaning, they were blessed with big hearts and lungs, which potentially encouraged them to be athletes, and keep exercising throughout their lives.

This is a reasonable assertion, but the fact is when such athletes stop exercising in their middle age, their V̇o2 max values are similar to their sedentary counterparts.

Yes, the genetically advantage lose their advantage.

OK, you started life well endowed for exercise, but as the years ticked by and you didn’t keep it up, your fitness level reverted to that of the dude who sat near you in college and went to program for Microsoft whilst you headed to the NFL.


You Like What You’re Good At and Do What You Like

The answer to question #2, simply put, is that success breeds success.

It’s reasonable to suggest that the athletic individuals remained motivated to exercise as they got older because they were good at it, and were rewarded for this behavior.

Quoting from the Journal of Applied Physiology report:

“Perhaps the athletes enjoyed success as a result of superior “talent” when they were young. If they also enjoyed training and competing, then a number of central reward pathways might have been activated, reinforced, and remodeled. As they aged, daily exercise and their status as “super-fit” may have further reinforced their motivation and activated these reward pathways.”


Brains Get Better Through Exercise

The answer to question #3 is that, yes, there are profoundly beneficial ancillary benefits beyond physical fitness that lifelong exercise promotes.

It’s now accepted that overall fitness is associated with higher cognitive function and learning.  Moreover, older adults with high aerobic fitness have higher hippocampal volumes and better spatial memory, providing additional protection from the age-related decline in brain volume.

This means less chances of getting dementia and Alzheimer’s.



So, with exercise, you get less fat, more mobility, greater strength, and resistance to dreaded old age diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

What’s not to like about adopting a lifelong exercise regime?  If exercise is the fountain of youth, why not bathe in it!

If you want to experience a longer, higher quality life, at the very minimum, you need to exercise. If you’re ambitious, you might consider diet, detox cleansing, and something to bust up stress, like meditation and intimacy. This comprehensive approach will more likely get you to Ray Kurzweil’s Bridge #2.

Start where you are.

If the couch is your favorite perch, start by walking.  Grab a friend, get yourselves a fitbit, and record how many steps you take each day, with 10,000 being the goal. Then add resistance training, like calisthenics and/or weightlifting.

If you already exercise, but perhaps intermittently, find a way to do it regularly.

It’s a bit goofy, but my video, The Homestead Workout, will give you some resistance training ideas that you can do without equipment.

Given that in the United States, only 5% of adults are meeting what might be described as minimal physical activity guidelines, and with the obesity statistics getting absurd, it’s time to join the minority and have a long, strong life.

Get moving!  Enjoy your anti-aging effects of exercise.

This article was written and published on GarmaOnHealth.com by Joe Garma, and has been reproduced here in its entirety.

Exercise key to fight Inflammation and Aging

The best way to stay young really might be to keep moving. Research has shown physical activity can reduce inflammation in your body and improve heart health—both important for staying young beyond your years.

Aging results in chronic low grade inflammation that is associated with increased risk for disease, poor physical functioning and mortality. Strategies that reduce age-related inflammation improve the quality of life in older adults (1).

Regular exercise is recommended for older people for a variety of reasons including increasing muscle mass and reducing risk for chronic diseases of the heart and metabolic systems (2).

Increased lifespan

This recent study found that 4 hours of running per week increased average lifespan by 3 years.  Surprisingly, time spent running added more time that it took to run, with  each hour running adding  7 hours on average.

After 4 hours per week, no further improvements in life expectancy were noted (r).

NEWS: This recently published study compares High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with resistance training and combined weights/cardio training. It found HIIT to be far more effective, particularly for older humans.

In some cases, the high-intensity regimen actually seemed to reverse the age-related decline in both mitochondrial function and muscle-building proteins.

Read more about this study and HIIT

 Exercise reduces Chronic Inflammation

Only recently has exercise been examined in the context of inflammation, but these recent studies show that extended exercise programs generally reduce markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein over the long-term:

  • In elderly Japanese women, a 12-week resistance training program reduced circulating levels of inflammatory markers compared to baseline; reductions in CRP were associated with increases in muscle thickness.
  • American adults who engaged in frequent physical activity tended to have lower CRPs than adults who were more sedentary.
  • In type 2 diabetics, (key term coming up) long-term high intensity resistance and aerobic training reduced inflammatory markers over the course of a year (independent of changes in body weight, meaning activity was the key factor).
  • Endurance combined with resistance training reduced CRP in young, healthy women better than endurance training alone.
  • In obese, post-menopausal women, a basic moderate cardio program lowered CRP without really affecting body weight either way over the course of a year.
  • At the same time, though, several studies also show that exercise acutely spikes inflammatory markers:
  • Volleyball practice elicits spikes in IL-6 in both male and female elite volleyball players.
  • Acute exercise spiked CRP in cardiovascular disease patients (but a four-month exercise program lowered it).
  • This table of inflammatory responses to strenuous endurance events shows some massive spikes in CRP, some up to 20-fold the baseline value.

Conclusion: regular exercise tends to lower markers of systemic inflammation.

 Exercise Can Increase Your Energy Levels

Senior Couple Biking Together
Exercise can be a real energy booster for healthy people, as well as those suffering from various medical conditions (1718).

One study found that six weeks of regular exercise reduced feelings of fatigue for 36 healthy people who had reported persistent fatigue (19).

Furthermore, exercise can significantly increase energy levels for people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and other serious illnesses (2021).

In fact, exercise seems to be more effective at combating CFS than other treatments, including passive therapies like relaxation and stretching, or no treatment at all (20).

Additionally, exercise has been shown to increase energy levels in people suffering from progressive illnesses, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis (21).

Summary: Engaging in regular physical activity can increase your energy levels. This is true even in people with persistent fatigue and those suffering from serious illnesses.

Exercise Can Reduce Your Risk of Chronic Disease

Lack of regular physical activity is a primary cause of chronic disease (22).

Regular exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular fitness and body composition, yet decrease blood pressure and blood fat levels (23242526).

Therefore, daily physical activity is recommended to reduce belly fat and decrease the risk of developing these diseases (2728).

Summary: Daily physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic disease.

 It Can Help With Relaxation and Sleep Quality

Regular exercise can help you relax and sleep better (3738).

In regards to sleep quality, the energy depletion that occurs during exercise stimulates recuperative processes during sleep (38).

Moreover, the increase in body temperature that occurs during exercise is thought to improve sleep quality by helping it drop during sleep (39).

One study found that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week can provide up to a 65% improvement in sleep quality (40).

Another showed that 16 weeks of physical activity increased sleep quality and helped 17 people with insomnia sleep longer and more deeply than the control group. It also helped them feel more energized during the day (41).

What’s more, engaging in regular exercise seems to be beneficial for the elderly, who tend to be affected by sleep disorders (414243).

You can be flexible with the kind of exercise you choose. It appears that either aerobic exercise alone or aerobic exercise combined with resistance training can equally help sleep quality (44).

Summary: Regular physical activity, regardless of whether it is aerobic or a combination of aerobic and resistance training, can help you sleep better and feel more energized during the day.

 Exercise Can Reduce Pain

Chronic pain can be debilitating, but exercise can actually help reduce it (45).

In fact, for many years, the recommendation for treating chronic pain was rest and inactivity. However, recent studies show that exercise helps relieve chronic pain (45).

A review of several studies indicates that exercise helps participants with chronic pain reduce their pain and improve their quality of life (45).

Several studies show that exercise can help control pain that’s associated with various health conditions, including chronic low back pain, fibromyalgia and chronic soft tissue shoulder disorder, to name a few (46).

Additionally, physical activity can also raise pain tolerance and decrease pain perception (4748).

Summary: Exercise has favorable effects on the pain that’s associated with various conditions. It can also increase pain tolerance.

It Can Help Your Brain Health and Memory

Human Brain on White Background

Exercise can improve brain function and protect memory and thinking skills.

To begin with, it increases your heart rate, which promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.

Moreover, the ability of exercise to prevent chronic disease can translate into benefits for your brain, since its function can be affected by these diseases (32).

Regular physical activity is especially important in older adults since aging — combined with oxidative stress and inflammation — promotes changes in brain structure and function (3334).

Exercise has been shown to cause the hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s vital for memory and learning, to grow in size. This serves to increase mental function in older adults (333435).

Lastly, exercise has been shown to reduce changes in the brain that can cause Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia (36).

Summary: Regular exercise improves blood flow to the brain and helps brain health and memory. Among older adults, it can help protect mental function.

It Can Help Skin Health

Your skin can be affected by the amount of oxidative stress in your body.

Oxidative stress occurs when the body’s antioxidant defenses cannot completely repair the damage that free radicals cause to cells. This can damage their internal structures and deteriorate your skin.

Even though intense and exhaustive physical activity can contribute to oxidative damage, regular moderate exercise can increase your body’s production of natural antioxidants, which help protect cells (2930).

In the same way, exercise can stimulate blood flow and induce skin cell adaptations that can help delay the appearance of skin aging (31).

Summary: Moderate exercise can provide antioxidant protection and promote blood flow, which can protect your skin and delay signs of aging.

Best High Intensity Interval Training workouts for Longevity

High-intensity interval training , also called HIIT workouts, have become known in the fitness and medical world as one of the most effective means of improving cardiovascular health, respiratory endurance, as well as metabolic function.

HIIT workouts are known to be an excellent way to burn fat in a short period of time and to help improve the physical performance of athletes of all kinds. (1)

For most people, because it’s one of the great metabolism boosters, the biggest draw to a HIIT workout is its ability to keep the body burning fat even after the workout is over.

What Are HIIT Workouts?

High-intensity interval training is a type of exercise that involves repeated short bouts of high-intensity, or “burst” exercises, followed by brief recovery periods. This sequence is repeated several times in a row usually for a duration between 20–30 minutes.

Considering the fact that many people use “not having enough time” as a popular reason to avoid regularly exercising, HIIT workouts are one of the best ways to overcome this block and get great results fast.

A HIIT protocol is a well-researched way to reap physical benefits as an alternative approach to steady-state exercise training but with less of a time commitment. (2)

For example, recently a study compared the impact of two different types of exercise training on body fat and muscle metabolism: HIIT workouts versus steady-state exercise.

The study investigated the effects of calorie expenditure and fat loss in young adults and found that although HIIT workouts actually burned fewer calories during the actual workouts than did steady-state cardio exercise (likely due to its shorter duration), the HIIT program produced more fat loss than steady-state exercise did overall.

Additionally, the study concluded that while the HIIT workout helped build muscle, the steady-state workouts actually broke muscle down. Researchers concluded that not only does HIIT burn more fat over the duration of the day, but it also builds more muscle and improves metabolic function. (3)

How to Perform HIIT Workouts … and Why

The exact type of exercise performed during the “intense” internal periods can vary, such as performing sprints or doing faster reps of a particular move. What stays the same throughout different types of HIIT programs? The act of performing these stop-and-go intervals, meaning alternating between periods of hard “work” and “rest” or recovery.

A popular example of a HIIT workout can be running on the treadmill, alternating between a very fast pace and one that is easier and slower. In order to follow an interval schedule, you switch between sprints that require roughly 90 percent of your energy, followed by walking or slowly jogging to rest and recover.

Steady-state exercises, on the other hand, usually stay within the same type of “work” zone over time, with the amount of effort needed remaining consistent. (4)

HIIT Workouts Provide Benefits Fast

HIIT workouts have the ability to transform your body and physical abilities due to their effect on at least three important systems within the body:

  1. Your cardiovascular health and endurance
  2. Your body’s ability to use oxygen
  3. Your hormone levels

Studies have shown that resistance-based interval training specifically benefits blood flow and blood vessel dilation. A study, published in the American Journal of Physiology — Heart and Circulatory Physiology, found that resistance-based interval exercising improved endothelial function in individuals that previously exercised, those that didn’t and those with type 2 diabetes.

When researchers measured blood flow before, immediately following and at one and two hours after working out, participants with type 2 diabetes saw improvements at each time. The other two participant groups experienced improvements one and/or two hours after exercising. (5)

 HIIT Workouts Boost Cardiovascular Health 

Many studies are now showing that internal training — including HIIT workouts — promote greater improvements in VO2max and general fitness abilities than steady-state exercises do.

In fact, VO2max is considered the best indicator of cardiovascular endurance. This is the measurement most commonly used in fitness studies to show the effects that the exercise is having on the body. VO2 max is sometimes also called “max oxygen uptake” or “max aerobic activity” and is used to measure how well the body can use oxygen for energy.

Specifically, VO2max is defined as the maximum amount of oxygen (in milliliters) that a person can use in one minute per kilogram of their body weight. This measurement is important because the amount of oxygen that a person can utilize within one minute is an indicator of their overall fitness level and also their lung and heart health.

Due to the expansion of blood volume, the heart will undergo enlarging, or “hypertrophy,” during HIIT type of endurance exercises in order to allow the heart muscle to become bigger and stronger. (6)

By pushing your heart rate high during periods of intense work, you’ll be able to increase your cardiovascular ability and strengthen your heart. During the short rest intervals, you work on recovering more quickly and needing less time to rest. This is how you build stamina over time and increase your ability to perform physical exercises more effectively.

Performing short recovery segments in between the intervals where you’re working harder has the benefit of allowing you to keep the overall workout intensity high while still maintaining form.

While it’s hard to work very hard and maintain a high heart rate for an extended period of time because your body isn’t able to bring in enough oxygen, the rest/recovery periods of interval training allow you to catch your breath and for your heart rate to come down momentarily.

Knowing your VO2 max can help you to establish fitness goals to work towards and gives you a starting point as to how capable you are of maintaining a high level of effort over a period of time.

HIIT Workouts Trigger an Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen (EPOC) Effect

HIIT workouts also trigger something known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or “EPOC.” EPOC is the phenomenon of an increased rate of oxygen that your body uses following strenuous activity (7).

Your body uses more oxygen after hard workouts like those performed during HIIT because it’s making up for the body’s “oxygen deficit” that occurred during the difficult “burst” periods of the exercise. EPOC has many functions for the body, including that following a HIIT workout, your body goes into a recovery phase.

A higher level of oxygen is needed during recovery in order to facilitate in the restoration of hormone levels, refueling your glucose stores, and repairing your muscle fibers and tissue.

The best part about EPOC? It’s accompanied by an elevated need for bodily “fuel” or energy in addition to more oxygen. After intense exercise, fat stores within your body are actually broken down and free fatty acids are released into the bloodstream. During the post-workout recovery phase, these free fatty acids become oxidized and your body uses them for energy.

As your body uses more oxygen to bring itself back into a resting state, more calories are burned in the process, even while you are done working out. This means you continue to experience benefits and fat loss during the remainder of your day following a HIIT workout.

Another benefit of EPOC that results from HIIT workouts? New ATP (adenosine triphosphate) — which is the fuel source or energy that your body works off of — is also synthesized. Additionally, post-exercise oxygen is used to reduce lactic acid.

Lactic acid is formed during exercise and is responsible for giving you the “burning” feeling in your muscles when they are working hard.

Lactic acid travels via the bloodstream to the kidneys, cardiac muscle and liver during workouts; then an increased amount of oxygen is necessary to convert the lactic acid back to pyruvic acid so that your pain subsides and body enters a resting state.

Yet another use of EPOC is to fuel the body’s increased metabolism that results from the increase in body temperature experienced during exercise. Due to all of these vital tasks that the body must undergo during a period of EPOC, you can see why HIIT workouts have such a huge effect on your strength, stamina and health.

HIIT Workouts Release Muscle-Growth and Fat-Burning Hormones

Intense interval training circuits also stimulate muscle-building hormones while simultaneously using up calories and burning fat. The body produces the growth hormone known as IGF-1 during HIIT, for example, which allows the body to build lean mass muscle.

Who Are HIIT Workouts For?

Certain studies have shown that high-intensity exercise can be potentially unsafe for sedentary middle-aged adults. It’s best performed by those who are already somewhat active and have a healthy cardiovascular system.

That being said, anyone can work towards practicing HIIT workouts for their multiple benefits. However, if you aren’t already exercising, then it’s best to start slowly to avoid injury or more serious problems.

In conclusion, an exercise plan that includes consistent high-intensity interval exercise has been shown to improve body composition, boost cardio-metabolic health, lessen the risk for heart disease, and help improve exercise tolerance, even in obese and overweight participants. (8)

Research has shown that HIIT workouts are safe, efficient, well-tolerated and could help to improve adherence to exercise training given the limited time commitment that they require.

As long as you practice HIIT workouts responsibly and ease your way into a HIIT program, you can experience great results using HIIT workouts in combination with other forms of exercise that you enjoy.

How to Build Your Own HIIT Workout

No matter what your exercise preference is — whether running, biking, swimming or lifting weights, for example — you can practice HIIT workouts to improve your abilities. Even seasoned athletes use HIIT workouts to gain stamina and bust through plateaus that they are experiencing after practicing one particular type of exercise for a long time.

HIIT workouts are a great way to “shock” your muscles and to kick your body into high gear, allowing you to continue experiencing results and improvements after your body has gotten accustomed to your usual workout routine.

According to studies, it’s believed that an optimal HIIT workout produces maximum cardiovascular benefits when athletes spend at least several minutes per session in their “red zone” — yhis generally means reaching at least 90 percent of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max).

In order to estimate when you are working at 90 percent of your VO2max, you can think about your level of perceived effort on a 1–10 scale; you should be aiming to give it “your all” and reach a score of nine out of a possible 10 for at least a few minutes during a 20–30 minute HIIT workout. (10)

In addition to focusing on your perceived level of effort and targeting a high VO2max, there are also other variables to consider.

Keep these physiological variables in mind, which researchers have noted are all-important for practicing HIIT workouts and continuing to show improvements:

  • The amount of time you spent in your “intense” working interval 

The longer you spend in your intense zone, the more of an effect the exercise will have. Start off with shorter bursts of intense periods and increase the duration as you build strength and stamina.

  • The amount of time you spent in your “rest” and recovery interval 

You will likely notice that you need less time to recover as your body adapts to HIIT workouts. Pay attention to how long of rests you are taking and aim to shorten the restful period duration as your abilities improve.

  • The amount of reps you perform during your intense bursts 

Instead of aiming to improve the duration of time you spend in an intense interval, you can also focus on how many reps you are able to do in a row, for example, or your speed of work.

You will likely notice your ability to do reps quickly improves as you become accustomed to HIIT workouts and that you need less recovery time in between sets. You may also notice that your sprints get quicker or your cycling pace gets faster if you choose to run or bike during your HIIT workout.

  • The total number of interval series you are able to perform 

It’s a good idea to start out with about 15–20 minutes of HIIT intervals and work your way up to 25–30 minutes if you’d like. The more your body gets used to the intensity, the more series you’ll be able to perform and your total workout length will increase.

  • The time needed between HIIT workouts 

Most experts recommend practicing HIIT workouts 2–3 times per week, but not much more than this. The body needs an adequate break period between HIIT workouts to fully repair and grow stronger.

In fact, this is just as important as the workout itself and if you fail to properly give yourself enough rest, you miss out on some of the benefits of HIIT.

That being said, you will improve your ability to practice HIIT workouts closer to each other as your recovery periods become shorter. Even after you’ve seen great improvements, it’s still best to allow 48 hours in between HIIT workouts and avoid practicing them multiple days in a row.


How to do a HIIT workout


Three HIIT Workouts to GET YOU MOVING!

Keeping all of the above factors in mind, you can start practicing HIIT workouts using one of these example plans:

Treadmill Running HIIT Workout 

  1. Start with a warm up by lightly jogging for three minutes.
  2. Next, move into your interval period for about 10 minutes. Each minute you will do 20 seconds of intense work followed by 40 seconds of recovery. (Do this 10 times to start out, and as you become more fit you can increase to 15 minutes and beyond. If you’d like to challenge yourself more, do 30 seconds of intense bursts followed by 30 seconds of rest.)
  3. Cool down with a 3 minute jog.

Cycling HIIT Workout

This cycling interval workout is based on the “tabata” style of exercise, which usually consists of 20 seconds of hard work followed by 10 seconds of rest. In order to do interval training, this same ratio can be used in any other form of exercise as well.

  1. Start by cycling at a restful pace for three minutes to warm up.
  2. Move into your interval period for the next 10 minutes, where you will be cycling as hard as you possibly can for 20 seconds and then resting for 10 seconds. You can use a timer to keep track of the time or count in your head. Repeat this interval schedule 10–20 times depending on your abilities and current fitness level.
  3. Cool down with a slow, restful three minutes of cycling.

Circuit Training HIIT Workout 1

The three exercise moves below will make up your “intense” interval, then performing an easier form of cardio afterwards will make up your “rest” interval.

  1. Perform the following three exercise moves back-to-back according these reps: Start by doing 10 reps of each, then repeat the cycle doing 15 reps of each, then repeat the cycle doing 20 reps of each. Don’t take any breaks until after you’ve gone through all three sets.
  • Burpees
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Jumping Jacks
  • (In place of these 3 moves, you could also try performing fast alternating lunges, push-ups or kettlebell swings.)
  1. After you’ve completed these three sets, do a form of steady-state cardio for about three minutes. This can mean jogging, running in place, hopping on an exercise bike, etc. You want to be working at about half of your ability.

Bonus Advanced HIIT Workout: Circuit Training HIIT Style!

  1. Go through each move described below for an intense 20 seconds, moving very quickly through as many reps as you can perform in 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Then move on to the next move following the same timing. Once you’ve completed each move below, you are done with one intense interval.
  • Push-ups
  • Bodyweight Rows
  • Squats
  • Jumping Rope
  • Burpees
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Running in Place
  • Medicine Ball Chest Passes
  • Jumping Lunges
  • Planks
  1. Rest for two minutes after the circuit is complete. Then go through the entire circuit another two times or until you lose proper form.


Keep it Fresh

Is your exercise routine getting boring or just not providing the same kind of results as it once did? If so, you might wanna look into interval training.It doesn’t matter what you like to do… running, zamba, swimming, spin classes, etc. All you have to do to incorporate interval training is to push it extremely hard for a few minutes, then slow it down or rest for a few minutes (or maybe seconds).

What’s this do? You’re stressing the heck out of your cardiovascular system, that’s what! Why would you want to do that? Your muscles build up something called lactic acid. This acid improves your stamina, energy and strength. So while you’re on the down swing and easy mode (or rest) your body is actually preparing for the next push.

Professional athletes or at least life-long athletes have been using interval training for years. They know it’s the key to getting quick results and constantly improving your athletic ability. But for the general population, it’s still relatively new. Let’s look at why you should incorporate interval training into your routine…

It’s been shown that if you use interval training to its fullest, you can greatly improve your athletic ability. Your body learns to maximize the use of oxygen to gain energy when you need it – much better than if you always maintained the same level of difficulty in an exercise session. As your body learns to process oxygen better, you get stronger. You get faster. You up your game dramatically.

Are You Ready for Interval Training?

Of course, if you’re a beginner who has just started to exercise routinely then you may need to wait a bit before you try to push yourself too hard in interval training. You need to have a solid base level of physical fitness or you’re very likely going to risk injuries. If you don’t have any health conditions, shoot for 30-40 minutes of exercise several times per week at least. When you’ve been doing that and are comfortable with it, aim to get to a heart rate of 220 minus your age. i.e. if you’re 20, then aim for 200. That’s how you can figure your max heart rate.

Start Interval Training

Ok, you’ve been exercising regularly and you’ve established a healthy, strong fitness base. It’s time to up the ante. But don’t do interval training everyday. Your body needs 24/48 hours to fully recover from such intense exercise. Also keep in mind that with interval training, you’ll burn quite a bit more carbs than before. That means you should feed some extra carbs back into your body to refuel and recover. Don’t go crazy, but get a few hundred grams definitely.

Don’t Crash and Burn

When you start doing intervals you want to make sure that you’ll be able to finish. If you’re running, do a strong fast run during the high-intensity portions, but don’t flat out sprint if that means you won’t be able to finish. By being able to finish, we mean two things: You want to be able to finish the last few seconds high-intensity portions with the same speed and strength as the fist few seconds. You also want the last high-intensity portion to be as strong as the first one of the day. Remember it doesn’t have to be an ‘all or nothing’ type of thing. Some research has shown just as good results with medium-intensity portions as high-intensity. Just make sure you’re getting in those short burst of oomph!


High Intensity Interval Training may reverse aging

It’s long been known that physical activity can reduce inflammation in your body and improve heart health.

This study recently published in cell.com shows that High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective than weight training or cardio for improving metabolic health, is superior for fighting age related decline, and may yield anti-aging benefits down to the cellular level.

HIIT was found to be even more effective at improving mitochondria biogenesis in older individuals.

“HIIT reversed many age-related differ- ences in the proteome, particularly of mitochondrial proteins in concert with increased mitochondrial pro- tein synthesis.”

“HIIT increased maximal absolute mitochondrial respiration in young (+49%) and older adults (+69%), whereas a significant increase following CT was observed in young (+38%), but not older adults”

“HIIT training in older adults had strong effect sizes in multiple outcomes, including mitochondrial respiration (1.7), aerobic fitness (0.99), insulin sensitivity (0.5)”

“HIIT revealed a more robust increase in gene transcripts than other exercise modalities, particularly in older adults, although little overlap with corresponding individual protein abundance was noted.”

Researchers enrolled 36 men and 36 women from two age groups—either under 30 or over 65.

They took on three different exercise programs that included high-intensity interval biking, strength training with weights, and one that mixed lighter cycling and lifting. Each group completed their plan for 12 weeks.

“Any exercise is better than being sedentary,” said Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, senior author of the study and a diabetes researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. However, Nair noted that high-intensity interval training (HIIT), in particular, is “highly efficient” when it comes to reversing many age-related changes.

Young and old, men and women

For the National Institutes of Health-funded study, Nair and his colleagues enlisted the help of both men and women from two age groups: The “young” volunteers ranged in age from 18 to 30; “older” volunteers ranged in age between 65 and 80. Next, the researchers divided these participants into three mixed-age groups and assigned each a different supervised exercise training program lasting three months.

The high-intensity interval training training group did three days a week of cycling, with high-intensity bouts sandwiched between low-intensity pedaling, and two days a week of moderately difficult treadmill walking.

The strength training group performed repetitions targeting both lower and upper body muscles just two days each week.Finally, the combined training group cycled (less strenuously than the first group) and lifted weights (fewer repetitions than the second group) for a total of five days a week.

There were clear differences, then, in the amount of time different participants spent in the gym.

Before and after each training session, the researchers assessed various aspects of each volunteer’s physiology, including body mass index, quantity of lean muscle mass and insulin sensitivity, one indication of diabetes.

The researchers also did routine biopsies of each volunteer’s thigh muscles and performed a biochemical analysis in order to establish a comprehensive fingerprint of the muscle.

Analyzing the gathered data, Nair and his colleagues found that all forms of exercise improved overall fitness, as measured by cardiorespiration, and increased insulin sensitivity, which translates into a lower likelihood of developing diabetes.

Although all exercise helped with musculature, strength training was most effective for building muscle mass and for improving strength, which typically declines with age.

Meanwhile, at the cellular level, high-intensity interval training yielded the biggest benefits.

With HIIT, younger participants saw a 49% increase, while older participants saw a 69% increase in mitochondrial capacity.

Every cell in our bodies contain   mitochondria. They perform as tiny batteries do, producing much-needed energy that powers everything your cells do.

Interval training also improved volunteers’ insulin sensitivity more than other forms of exercise. Drilling down deeper, Nair and his colleagues compared the protein-level data gathered from participants to understand why exercise provided these benefits.

Enhancing your cellular machinery

If we think of the cell as a corporate hierarchy, genes (DNA) are the executives issuing orders to their middle managers: messenger RNA. Tasked with transcribing this order, the RNA turns to ribosomes, which perform a supervisory role by linking amino acids in order to assemble protein molecules. Finally, the proteins, cellular work horses, carry out the task originally dictated by the gene.

“Proteins sustain environmental damage and the damaged proteins have to be … replaced with newly synthesized (produced) proteins,” explained Nair in an email. “With aging in sedentary people, production of many protein molecules decline. … Gradually the quantity of these protein molecules decrease causing functional decline.”

Analyzing the muscle biopsies, the researchers discovered that exercise boosts cellular production of mitochondrial proteins and the proteins responsible for muscle growth.

“Exercise training, especially high intensity interval training, enhanced the machinery (ribosomes) to produce proteins, increased the production of proteins and enhanced protein abundance in muscle,” Nair said.

He said the results also showed that “the substantial increase in mitochondrial function that occurred, especially in the older people, is due to increase in protein abundance of muscle.”

In some cases, the high-intensity regimen actually seemed to reverse the age-related decline in both mitochondrial function and muscle-building proteins.

Exercise’s ability to transform mitochondria could explain why it benefits our health in so many different ways, according to the authors.

Muscle cells, like brain and heart cells, are unusual in that they divide only rarely compared with most cells in the body. Because muscle, brain and heart cells do wear out yet are not easily replaced, the function of all three of these tissues are known to decline with age, noted Nair.

If exercise restores or prevents deterioration of mitochondria and ribosomes in muscle cells, exercise possibly performs the same magic in other tissues, too. And, although it is important simply to understand how exercise impacts the mechanics of cells, these insights may also allow researchers “to develop targeted drugs to achieve some of the benefits that we derive from the exercise in people who cannot exercise,” Nair said.

‘Almost a medicine’

According to Jennifer Trilk, an assistant professor of physiology and exercise science at University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, the new study is comprehensive and supports previous research, combining it all into one paper.

“We cannot have enough studies surrounding this information because of how impactful it is for health,” said Trilk, who was not involved in the research

She explained that if younger people boost mitochondrial function when they’re young, they would be preventing disease, while for an older population, they would also be preventing disease while maintaining skeletal muscle, which wanes in older age.

“Mitochondrial function is important to almost every cell in the human body,” Trilk said. “So when you don’t have mitochondrial function or when you have mitochondrial dysfunction, you have dysfunction of cells, so from a molecular standpoint, you start seeing cellular dysfunction years before you start seeing the global effect, which ends up coming out as symptoms of diseases: diabetes, cancers and cardiovascular disease.”

Juleen Zierath, a professor of integrative physiology at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, finds the study to be “a really comprehensive and thorough analysis of human skeletal muscle before and after” adapting to different exercise regimens. Zierath, who did not participate as a researcher in the current study, also appreciated the fact that the authors comprehensively examined the effects on both younger and older participants.

“It teases out some of the training regimes that might be leading to greater effects on what they call mitochondrial fitness,” she said. Compared with the other two exercise programs, interval training “really had a more robust effect” on the machinery of cells, she said.

“It boosted the proteins that are important for mitochondrial function — the oxygen powerhouse of the cells,” Zierath said. “It reversed many of what we call age-related differences in mitochondrial function and oxidative metabolism.”

“Part of what happens with HIIT is, you disturb homeostasis, you exercise at a really high level, and the body needs to cope with that,” she explained.

Even though one program had superior effects, “every single exercise protocol they tested had positive effects,” said Zierath, who is looking forward to future research in this vein.

“Exercise is almost a medicine in some respects,” Zierath said. “It’s never too late to start exercising.”