According to new research by the Mayo Clinic, HIIT can essentially stop cellular ageing in its tracks.
Researchers wanted to better understand how exercise affects the mitochondria - aka, the “powerhouses” of our cells that are responsible for creating more than 90 per cent of the energy needed to sustain life and support organ function.
They took 36 men and 36 women and split them into two groups (between 18-30-years-old and 65-80-years-old). The participants were then assigned a three-month training program which included HIIT, strength training or a combo of the two. Muscle biopsies were taken before and afterwards to measure the impact this had on their bodies.
Predictably, the strength training group saw the most improvements in their muscle mass. But the HIIT training actually affected participants on a molecular level. In fact, their mitochondrial functioning – which typically declines with age – improved by 49 per cent among the younger age group and a whopping 69 per cent among the older age group. In addition, their insulin levels, heart and lung health also changed for the better.
“Based on everything we know, there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the ageing process,” the study’s lead senior author, Sreekumaran Nair explained.
“These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine. If people have to pick one exercise, I would recommend high-intensity interval training but I think it would be more beneficial if they could do three to four days of interval training and then a couple of days of strength training.”
That said, it’s still unknown why HIIT specifically is responsible for such dramatic results.
“There are substantial basic science data to support the idea that exercise is critically important to prevent or delay ageing,” says Nair. “There’s no substitute for that.”