Everybody knows that physical activity can help you live longer. But there are so many different forms of exercise to choose from. Does anybody know which one is best?
Scientists at Leipzig University in Germany recently conducted a study to find out.
They tested three types of exercise: endurance exercise, high-intensity interval training, and strength training.
The study focused on telomeres. Telomeres are bits of DNA that act like caps on the ends of chromosomes. They protect genetic material in our cells.1
Telomeres get shorter every time a cell divides. When the telomeres are too short, the cell becomes “senescent” and dies. This leads to biological aging.
The length of telomeres is partly maintained by the enzyme telomerase. But telomerase becomes much less active as we age.
The researchers wanted to see how three different forms of exercise would affect telomeres and telomerase:2
- Endurance exercise. This is any activity that can improve stamina. It includes aerobic exercise such as running, jogging, swimming, and bicycling.
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves an aerobic activity such as the ones mentioned above. But it’s done in short, intense bursts with brief rests in between.
- Strength training. This is exercise meant to improve muscle tone and mass, such as weightlifting.
The researchers started with 266 healthy young subjects. None of the participants were previously active. They were divided into four groups.
One group did endurance training (running). Another group did HIIT (four short cycles of hard running alternating with short cycles of slow running). A third group did strength training (various machine workouts, including pulldowns, seated leg curls, rowing, and chest presses). The fourth was the control group, and did no exercise.
Participants did three exercise sessions a week. The trial lasted for six months. Scientists collected blood samples from the subjects at the start of the study and again when it was over.
Researchers analyzed subjects’ telomere length and telomerase activity in their white blood cells.
HIIT and endurance exercise both increased telomerase activity and telomere length. Telomerase was two to three times more active in subjects who did one of these forms of exercise.3
Professor Ulrich Laufs of Leipzig University led the study. He says HIIT and endurance exercise are “important for cellular aging, regenerative capacity, and thus, healthy aging.”
The High-Intensity Advantage
HIIT has several lifespan advantages over endurance exercise that go beyond telomeres…
Studies have shown that it improves heart health more than endurance exercise. This is important since heart disease kills more Americans than any other health condition.4
HIIT speeds your metabolism so you burn more calories both during and for 48 hours after workouts. This can help you avoid obesity, one of the biggest mortality risks.
Here’s how to do HIIT…
It’s adaptable to many different activities. This includes running, biking, swimming, calisthenics, or using a rowing, stair climber, or elliptical machine
Warm up for three to five minutes doing your chosen form of exercise.
Then do the exercise at the highest intensity level you can for the next minute.
Slow down for the next minute or two to catch your breath. Then go hard again for another minute.
Repeat this process five to seven times. Afterward, do the activity slowly for at least two minutes to cool down.
The idea is to push your body for a brief burst, and then allow it to recover. HIIT allows you stay in great shape even when you don’t have time for a long workout.
Editor’s Note: There are more ways to add years to your life… Go here to discover how you can get all details on how to ramp up your body’s production of this age-reversing compound all on your own – without a doctor.
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