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High-Intensity Exercise Can Reverse Some Cellular Aspects of Aging

High-Intensity Exercise Can Reverse Some Cellular Aspects of Aging

High-intensity aerobic exercise can reverse some cellular aspects of aging, according to new research published in the journal Cell Metabolism. The findings show that this type of training significantly enhances cellular processes responsible for making new proteins, thus reversing a major adverse effect of aging.

For the study, researchers at Mayo Clinic compared high-intensity interval training, resistance training and combined training. Their aim was to find evidence that would help in the development of targeted therapies and exercise recommendations for people of various ages.

For more than 12 weeks, the researchers tracked metabolic and molecular changes in a group of young and older adults. They gathered the data 72 hours after the participants — who had been randomized into different exercise groups —┬ácompleted each type of training.

They found that all training types improved lean body mass and insulin sensitivity, but only high-intensity training and combined training improved aerobic capacity and mitochondrial function for skeletal muscle; decline in mitochondrial content and function are common in older adults.

High-intensity workouts also improved muscle protein content that not only enhanced energetic functions, but also caused muscle enlargement, particularly in older adults. A significant finding was that exercise training significantly enhanced cellular processes that are responsible for making new proteins. This contributes to protein synthesis, thus reversing a major adverse effect of aging.

“We encourage everyone to exercise regularly, but the take-home message for aging adults is that supervised high-intensity training is probably best, because, both metabolically and at the molecular level, it confers the most benefits, said K. Sreekumaran Nair, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and senior researcher on the study.

He said the high-intensity training reversed some manifestations of aging in the body’s protein function. Nair said, however, that adding resistance training a couple of days a week is needed for increasing muscle strength.

Some of the key findings of the study were:

  • cardio-respiratory health, muscle mass, and insulin sensitivity improved in all training types;
  • mitochondrial cellular function declined with age but improved with training;
  • increase in muscle strength occurred only modestly with high-intensity interval training but occurred with resistance training alone or when added to the aerobic training;
  • exercise improves skeletal muscle gene expression independent of age;
  • exercise substantially enhanced the ribosomal proteins responsible for synthesizing new proteins, which is mainly responsible for enhanced mitochondrial function;
  • training has little effect on skeletal muscle DNA energy transfer but promotes skeletal muscle protein expression with maximum effect in older adults.

Source: Mayo Clinic

High-Intensity Exercise Can Reverse Some Cellular Aspects of Aging

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). High-Intensity Exercise Can Reverse Some Cellular Aspects of Aging. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 13 Mar 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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