TUESDAY, March 28, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- High-intensity exercise may help older adults reverse certain aspects of the "cellular" aging process, a new study suggests.
It's no secret that regular exercise is healthy for young and old alike. But researchers said the new findings point to particular benefits from "high-intensity interval training" for older adults.
That's the type of workout that combines brief bursts of vigorous exercise with periods of moderate activity: A person might, for example, go all-out on a stationary bike for a few minutes, ease up for the next few, and then start again.
In this study, older adults who performed that type of exercise showed greater changes at the cellular level, compared to those who worked out more moderately.
Specifically, interval training gave a bigger boost to mitochondrial function in the muscle. Mitochondria are the "powerhouses" within body cells that break down nutrients to be used for energy.
The training also revved up activity in more genes related to mitochondrial function and muscle growth.
What does it all mean?
The study findings suggest that interval training can turn back the clock in ways that moderate aerobic exercise and strength training do not, according to lead researcher Dr. K. Sreekumaran Nair.
But, he stressed, the findings do not mean older adults should jump into a vigorous exercise regimen.
"If you're sedentary, you should talk to your doctor before you start exercising," said Nair. He's an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"And then," he said, "you can start with walking, and build yourself up to a fast pace."
For older adults who want to progress to a more-intense regimen, Nair said, it's best to start with supervision. But he also stressed that intense exercise is not a must. "Any regular exercise will bring health benefits -- absolutely," he added.
This study demonstrated that, he pointed out. Even though interval training had the biggest effects on aspects of cellular aging, other types of exercise boosted older adults' fitness levels and muscle strength.
The study, published recently in Cell Metabolism, involved 72 younger and older adults who were sedentary.