High-intensity interval training causes cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes, effectively stopping ageing at the cellular level.

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What is high-intensity interval training (HIIT)?

How and why increasing mitochondria improves performance

Mitochondria structure changes in elite athletes

    

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“Based on everything we know, there’s no substitute for these exercise programmes when it comes to delaying the ageing process,” said study senior author Sreekumaran Nair, a medical doctor and diabetes researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine.”

Interval training: why and how

    

The study enrolled 36 men and 36 women from two age groups; ‘young’ volunteers who were 18-30 years old and ‘older’ volunteers who were 65-80 years old. these volunteers were then split into three different exercise programmes; one where the volunteers did high-intensity interval biking, one where the volunteers did strength training with weights, and one that combined strength training and interval training. Then the researchers took biopsies from the volunteers’ thigh muscles and compared the molecular makeup of their muscle cells to samples from sedentary volunteers. The researchers also assessed the volunteers’ amount of lean muscle mass and insulin sensitivity.

They found that while strength training was effective at building muscle mass, high-intensity interval training yielded the biggest benefits at the cellular level. The younger volunteers in the interval training group saw a 49% increase in mitochondrial capacity, and the older volunteers saw an even more dramatic 69% increase. Interval training also improved volunteers’ insulin sensitivity, which indicates a lower likelihood of developing diabetes.