High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can not only aid your health but also help you age more gracefully.
The laundry list of benefits associated with regular exercise is long and diverse—but you can now add anti-aging to the list, especially if you take up a certain form of cardio regularly, according to a new study.
New research published last month in the European Heart Journal suggests that endurance training as well as high-intensity interval training workouts could help you age better compared to other forms of exercise. In the study, researchers targeted 266 healthy participants who were otherwise inactive to start exercising; they split them into four different groups, consisting of endurance trainings, a HIIT group, a weight lifting group, and a control group that didn't work out at all.
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Those who were exercising did 45-minute sessions three times a week, whereas the control group continued their normal sedentary routine. After six months, the researchers studied everyone's telomeres—which are parts of the chromosome, and help protect DNA from deterioration—as well as telomerase activity, which is related.
The study found that telomerase length and activity either doubled or tripled for those in the HIIT and endurance groups compared to those who didn't work out at all.
New research you should read up on now:
Dr. Christian Werner, Ph.D., is one of the study's co-authors and currently works at Saarland University in Germany—he told Runner's World that telomeres deteriorate over time, leaving otherwise healthy cells vulnerable to damage as we age. Werner says that if you could slow down this process, your holistic health could benefit greatly, especially alongside all the other benefits associated with cardio and regular exercise.
“Shortened and damaged telomeres signal the cell to halt growth and multiplication and to become senescent,” he said. “This is an important hallmark of aging in the cells.”
It's unclear if longer, healthier telomeres help your body maintain a more youthful biological status compared to your actual age, Werner said, indicating that more research is needed. But this study in particular suggests that stronger telomeres can help you build better cardiac and muscular function over time.
The longer you're able to stabilize your telomeres, the greater chance you'll have for your cells to be resistant to things like stress and inflammation, which are huge components of physical aging on the body, Werner said.
If you're working on maximizing your holistic health, it seems that HIIT training or endurance workouts could be something to consider—but it's also important to note that diet plays a significant role in stabilizing the aging process. Recent research suggests that cutting calorie intakes by just 15 percent could help maintain a healthy metabolism and stave off other chronic diseases and conditions associated with severe aging effects.
The 5 Stages of Fasting (And The Benefits of Each One)
Intermittent fasting is more than just a weight-loss strategy.
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While skipping meals is a surefire great way to burn through your fat stores, the health benefits of intermittent fasting extend far beyond simple weight loss. Fasting promotes mental clarity and mood[ * ], improves immune function[ * ], increases muscle growth[ * ], and more.
However, not all fasts provide the same benefits. There are multiple stages of fasting, and the benefits you get from fasting depend on the length of your fast.
Here’s a look at the five main stages of fasting, the specific benefits that come with each one, and a brief look at how to incorporate fasting into your life.
I’m Just Too Old
Exercise is good for just about everyone, including older adults. Even moderate amounts of physical activity can have a big impact. Talk with your doctor first, of course. If you’ve been inactive, take it easy as you get started, say, 5-10 minutes of moderate activity each day.
Climbing Stairs Could Have Big Benefits for Your Heart
If you&rsquove had heart troubles and are worried about things worsening, you might want to find your nearest set of stairs.
New research is showing that stair climbing is a good alternative to the gym for heart patients, offering a safe and efficient exercise option for people who don&rsquot like the gym &ndash pandemic or not.
One study found that heart patients are unlikely to stick to exercise regimens, for reasons like time and access to gyms, which could be putting their heart at greater risk. Brief, vigorous stair climbing exercise, however, was found to improve fitness at comparable levels.
Another study randomly assigned coronary artery disease patients who&rsquod had a heart procedure to a traditional moderate-intensity exercise group or vigorous stair climbing.
The stair climbing involved three rounds of six flights of 12 stairs, separated by recovery periods of walking, where participants chose their own pace.
Both groups improved their heart and lung fitness and were able to rebuild muscle, as well.
Stairs climbing offers greater intensity than a leisurely walk, cycling, or other forms of cardiovascular exercise. Having to carry your body upwards, one step at a time, can be challenging even at a slow pace. The slightest increase in speed makes it even more challenging.
Although it&rsquos not the best way to assess the benefits of stair climbing, one way to test its value is to check them out the next time you walk by your local gym. It&rsquos almost a guarantee the fittest people will be on them!
Stair climbing is relatively accessible, too. If you&rsquove got multiple floors in your home, dedicate some time each day to follow the protocol above. Hold the handrail if needed.
If you don&rsquot have stairs, then head over to a park, mall, school, or somewhere that&rsquos got stairs. Be careful, though. Walk up and down first to observe any potential risks like cracked concrete, pebbles, etc.
Lastly, if you&rsquore in a condo or apartment, you could consider the stairwell. However, only use it if it is air-conditioned and you feel safe.
Brief and vigorous bouts of stair climbing may help improve heart health and get the blood flowing a little easier. Give it a try to help improve fitness and muscle strength.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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Exercise &amp Type 1
Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, regular physical activity is important for your overall health and wellness. With type 1 diabetes, it’s very important to balance your insulin doses with the food you eat and the activity that you do—even when you are doing house or yard work.
Planning ahead and knowing how your blood sugar and body respond to exercise can help you keep your blood sugar from going too low or too high.
Your blood sugar response to exercise will vary depending on:
- your blood sugar level before you start
- the intensity of the activity
- the length of time you are active
- the changes you’ve made to insulin doses
Sometimes people experience a drop in blood sugar during or after exercise, so it is very important to check your blood sugar, plan ahead, and be prepared to treat hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
To learn how different types of activity affect you, you should check your blood sugar before, during and after an exercise session. Put a trial and error system into place. For example, increased activity may mean that you need to lower your insulin dose or eat some extra carbs before exercising to keep your blood sugar in a safe range. Some activities may cause your blood sugar to drop quickly while others do not.
If your blood sugar is trending down before a workout, have a pre-exercise snack. Always carry a carbohydrate food or drink (like juice or glucose tabs) that will quickly raise your blood sugar. It may take a while to figure out what works best for you.
If your blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dl before you start your activity, try having a small carbohydrate snack (about 15 grams) to increase your blood sugar and reduce your risk for hypoglycemia. This is especially important if you took insulin recently and if you will be exercising for longer than 30 minutes.
If you use an insulin pump, you may be able to avoid adding an extra snack by lowering your basal insulin rate during the activity. And if you have repeated problems with your blood sugar dropping during or after exercise, consult your doctor.
When your blood sugar is high…
Blood sugar can also run high during or after exercise, particularly when you do a high-intensity exercise that increases your stress hormone (i.e., glucose-raising hormone) levels.
- If your blood sugar is high before starting exercise, check your blood or urine for ketones. If you test positive for ketones, avoid vigorous activity.
- If you do not have ketones in your blood or urine and you feel well, it should be fine to exercise.
Exercise is important for overall fitness, but so is limiting the amount of time sitting. Kids and adults these days tend to spend a lot of time in front of various screens—television, computers, video games, tablets, smart phones, etc. Too much screen time is associated with higher blood sugar levels, while physical activity is linked to lower A1Cs and healthier hearts. ADA's Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes recommend breaking up time sitting by walking, leg extensions, or overhead arm stretches every 30 minutes.
Kids: spontaneous activity and blood sugar
The tricky part about exercise in children of all ages is that it is often unplanned and spontaneous. Will your child come home from school today and do homework for an hour or want to bike with friends for an hour? Sometimes you don’t know if your child is going to run around for 15 minutes, or run around for an hour and need extra carbs to prevent a low.
Be prepared to give 5–15 grams of carb, depending on the child’s age and size, for every 30 minutes of sustained activity and monitor sugar levels frequently.
Infants and children
No matter the age, you can help children stay active. For example, encouraging infants in active play to explore movement and their surroundings supports physical and mental development. For toddlers, 30 minutes or more of physical activity a day with no more than 60 minutes of sitting at a time will help promote motor skills and muscular development.
For preschoolers: At least 60 minutes activity per day
- Give your child 5–15 grams of carbohydrates for every 30 minutes of activity, depending on initial blood sugar levels and the intensity of the exercise.
- Check pre-exercise blood sugar levels in active children since a young child may not be able to verbalize the symptoms of a low.
- Starting exercise with blood sugar in the 150–200 mg/dL range may help lower the risk of hypoglycemia in toddlers.
- Paying attention to your child’s blood sugar levels before and after exercise will help
Young children and adolescents
Children and adolescents should have at least 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day.
- Include aerobic activities such as running, swimming, biking.
- Anaerobic exercises consists of short exertion, high-intensity movements, such as jumping and sprinting.
- Include strength training, such as yoga, weights and other activities.
Your health care team’s role
Your health care team can help you find the balance between activity, food and insulin. When testing on your own to learn about your reaction to different activities, keep a record of your activity and your numbers. Your healthcare team can use that data to suggest adjustments and refine your plan. If you are having chronic lows or highs, they may need to alter your insulin dose or make a change in your meal plan.
The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles
The toll that aging takes on a body extends all the way down to the cellular level. But the damage accrued by cells in older muscles is especially severe, because they do not regenerate easily and they become weaker as their mitochondria, which produce energy, diminish in vigor and number.
A study published this month in Cell Metabolism, however, suggests that certain sorts of workouts may undo some of what the years can do to our mitochondria.
Exercise is good for people, as everyone knows. But scientists have surprisingly little understanding of its cellular impacts and how those might vary by activity and the age of the exerciser.
So researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., recently conducted an experiment on the cells of 72 healthy but sedentary men and women who were 30 or younger or older than 64. After baseline measures were established for their aerobic fitness, their blood-sugar levels and the gene activity and mitochondrial health in their muscle cells, the volunteers were randomly assigned to a particular exercise regimen.
Some of them did vigorous weight training several times a week some did brief interval training three times a week on stationary bicycles (pedaling hard for four minutes, resting for three and then repeating that sequence three more times) some rode stationary bikes at a moderate pace for 30 minutes a few times a week and lifted weights lightly on other days. A fourth group, the control, did not exercise.
After 12 weeks, the lab tests were repeated. In general, everyone experienced improvements in fitness and an ability to regulate blood sugar.
There were some unsurprising differences: The gains in muscle mass and strength were greater for those who exercised only with weights, while interval training had the strongest influence on endurance.
But more unexpected results were found in the biopsied muscle cells. Among the younger subjects who went through interval training, the activity levels had changed in 274 genes, compared with 170 genes for those who exercised more moderately and 74 for the weight lifters. Among the older cohort, almost 400 genes were working differently now, compared with 33 for the weight lifters and only 19 for the moderate exercisers.
Many of these affected genes, especially in the cells of the interval trainers, are believed to influence the ability of mitochondria to produce energy for muscle cells the subjects who did the interval workouts showed increases in the number and health of their mitochondria — an impact that was particularly pronounced among the older cyclists.
It seems as if the decline in the cellular health of muscles associated with aging was “corrected” with exercise, especially if it was intense, says Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, a professor of medicine and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic and the study’s senior author. In fact, older people’s cells responded in some ways more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the young did — suggesting, he says, that it is never too late to benefit from exercise.
Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain
As we grow older we suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness, which can be made worse by conditions like Alzheimer's disease. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.
"Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity," says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany. "In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance."
Elderly volunteers, with an average age of 68, were recruited to the study and assigned either an eighteen-month weekly course of learning dance routines, or endurance and flexibility training. Both groups showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain. This is important because this area can be prone to age-related decline and is affected by diseases like Alzheimer's. It also plays a key role in memory and learning, as well as keeping one's balance.
While previous research has shown that physical exercise can combat age-related brain decline, it is not known if one type of exercise can be better than another. To assess this, the exercise routines given to the volunteers differed. The traditional fitness training program conducted mainly repetitive exercises, such as cycling or Nordic walking, but the dance group were challenged with something new each week.
Dr Rehfeld explains, "We tried to provide our seniors in the dance group with constantly changing dance routines of different genres (Jazz, Square, Latin-American and Line Dance). Steps, arm-patterns, formations, speed and rhythms were changed every second week to keep them in a constant learning process. The most challenging aspect for them was to recall the routines under the pressure of time and without any cues from the instructor."
These extra challenges are thought to account for the noticeable difference in balance displayed by those participants in dancing group. Dr Rehfeld and her colleagues are building on this research to trial new fitness programs that have the potential of maximizing anti-aging effects on the brain.
"Right now, we are evaluating a new system called "Jymmin" (jamming and gymnastic). This is a sensor-based system which generates sounds (melodies, rhythm) based on physical activity. We know that dementia patients react strongly when listening to music. We want to combine the promising aspects of physical activity and active music making in a feasibility study with dementia patients."
Dr Rehfeld concludes with advice that could get us up out of our seats and dancing to our favorite beat.
"I believe that everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible. Physical activity is one of the lifestyle factors that can contribute to this, counteracting several risk factors and slowing down age-related decline. I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age."
This study falls into a broader collection of research investigating the cognitive and neural effects of physical and cognitive activity across the lifespan.
Slow Aging from the Inside Out: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Aging gracefully, to me, means being as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Diet and lifestyle choices are a major part of that. Even though I already make the effort to eat right and exercise, I'm always looking for ways to refine my diet and anti-aging strategies. But if you're anything like me, all of the products, promises and philosophies out there can be overwhelming.
Aging gracefully, to me, means being as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Diet and lifestyle choices are a major part of that. Even though I already make the effort to eat right and exercise, I&aposm always looking for ways to refine my diet and anti-aging strategies.
But if you&aposre anything like me, all of the products, promises and philosophies out there can be overwhelming. When I came across something called "The Anti-Inflammatory Diet," I was intrigued. Was inflammation something I should be concerned about? Upon further investigation, I found that inflammation might be accelerating my body&aposs aging process more than I even knew!
I consulted a doctor and a nutritionist to find out more:
What is inflammation and how can it affect the body?
The immune system responds to injury or disease with inflammation. This is a normal, reparative reaction that is necessary for healing. But not all inflammation is good.
"When inflammation persists beyond its intended borders and purpose, however, the immune system mistakenly attacks normal cells, and the process that ordinarily heals becomes destructive. It is now widely accepted that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses, especially those related to aging," says Dr. Andrew Weil, Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
According to Weil, persistent stress, poor diet, and over-exposure to environmental toxins can contribute to this type of unhealthy inflammation.
Can anything be done about it?
"The good news is that lifestyle choices can help," says Weil. "Following an anti-inflammatory diet is the single best way to reduce chronic inflammation and optimize health." Sounds great, but be forewarned: This isn&apost another diet du jour. The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is a life-long eating plan that emphasizes specific foods aimed at reducing harmful inflammation to ultimately lower your risk for diseases down the line. It is not geared toward weight-loss, but rather aims to improve overall long-term health.
What is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
In a nutshell, it focuses on whole foods (those that are unrefined and unprocessed), omega 3s, healthy fats and anti-inflammatory spices. Here are some examples:
What&aposs off limits?
"Lessening consumption of foods that promote inflammation is also important," says Weil. "I recommend significantly reducing the intake of highly processed foods and rapidly digesting carbohydrates, avoiding fast food and products containing partially hydrogenated oils or vegetable shortening, and minimizing the use of polyunsaturated oils such as sunflower, safflower, soy and corn."
It might be tough to know if you are eating some of these ingredients, particularly the oils, so always check labels and research the foods you eat to learn more about what they are made of. When in doubt, choose fresh, unprocessed foods and look for labels like organic and raw.
Does it work?
According to registered dietician Marlene Carneiro, there&aposs solid research that omega 3s and mono-unsaturated oils can counteract inflammation. However, she claims some of the information isn&apost concrete and says when it comes to developing certain diseases, heredity should be taken into account.
"Genetics do play a role, but diet is an integral part of that. You can greatly reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and certainly off-set them if they are hereditary."
Carneiro recommends not overhauling your entire diet all at once. "Gradual changes are sustainable," she says. "Find what works for you and little by little you start to revamp your pantry and the choices you make outside."
Are there any risks?
According to both experts, there are no known risks associated with this diet. However, always take precautions if you have any food allergies and discuss any changes, risks and benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, or any other diet with your doctor.
It&aposs never a bad idea to add another weapon to the arsenal against conditions that come with aging, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Though more research is needed, this diet shows promise. If it works for you, consider it anti-aging from the inside out!
Overall and in most cases, exercise is safe during pregnancy. You will usually find it is even recommended. Typically, the first rule of thumb is if you were physically active before you were pregnant, it is likely safe to remain active during pregnancy. More than likely, your healthcare provider will tell you to remain active, as long as it is comfortable and there are no other health conditions suggesting otherwise.
Now is not the time to exercise for weight loss, however, proper exercise during pregnancy will likely help with weight loss after the delivery of your baby. Exercise does not put you at risk for miscarriage in a normal pregnancy. You should consult with your health care provider before starting any new exercise routine. We have more information at exercise warning signs.
What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?
Exercising for 30 minutes on most, or all, days can benefit your health during pregnancy. Exercising for just 20 minutes, 3 or 4 days a week, is still beneficial, as well. The important thing is to be active and get your blood flowing.
To have success in completing exercises during pregnancy, it is a good idea to plan the days and times during the week when you will exercise. Prenatal yoga is a great, low impact exercise that can be highly beneficial for pregnant women.
Here are some of the benefits from exercise during pregnancy you may experience:
- Reduces backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling
- May help prevent or treat gestational diabetes
- Improves your posture
- Promotes muscle tone, strength, and endurance
- Helps you sleep better
- Regular activity also helps keep you fit during pregnancy and may improve your ability to cope with labor. This will make it easier for you to get back in shape after your baby is born.
Guidelines for choosing an exercise during pregnancy
If you participated in a regular exercise activity prior to becoming pregnant, it is probably fine to continue to participate during your pregnancy. There are many exercises that are safe to do during your pregnancy, but it is important not to overdo it and to use caution.
Many people were uneasy when they discovered that Olympic volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings had received the “OK” from her obstetrician to play competitive volleyball while pregnant. The American Pregnancy Association would have cautioned against this because of the vulnerability of impact with another player, the ground, or parts of the surrounding court area. However, it is important to highlight a key truth in the counsel her healthcare provider gave.
Your baby is surrounded by fluid in the amniotic sac, which is nestled inside the uterus, which is surrounded by the organs, muscles and your physical body. This actually creates a rather safe environment for your developing baby. However, even with this protection, it is recommended you avoid high-impact exercise.
You will probably want to avoid these types of exercises during pregnancy:
- Activities where falling is more likely
- Exercise that may cause any abdominal trauma, including activities that with jarring motions, contact sports or rapid changes in direction
- Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, or bouncing
- Bouncing while stretching
- Waist twisting movements while standing
- Intense bursts of exercise followed by long periods of no activity
- Exercise in hot, humid weather
- Do not hold your breath for an extended period of time
- Do not exercise to the point of exhaustion
You may want to include these basic guidelines in planning exercise during pregnancy:
- Be sure to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes, as well as, a good supportive bra.
- Choose well-fitting shoes that are designed for the type of exercise you are doing.
- Exercise on a flat, level surface to prevent injury.
- Eat enough healthy calories to meet the needs of your pregnancy, as well as, your exercise program.
- Finish eating at least one hour before exercising, see also pregnancy nutrition.
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.
- After doing floor exercises, get up slowly and gradually to prevent dizziness.
Please see this article for more information on exercise guidelines.
Which exercises during pregnancy are beneficial
Before you begin exercising, remember it is important to talk to your health care provider. If you typically get little or no activity, walking is a great exercise to start with. Walking is usually safe for everyone, it is easy on your body and joints, and it doesn’t require extra equipment. It is also easy to fit into a busy schedule.
Squatting during labor may help open your pelvic outlet to help your baby descend, so practice squatting during pregnancy. To do a squat, stand with feet shoulder width apart and slowly lower into a squat position. You should keep your back straight, heels on the floor and your knees shouldn’t protrude in front of your feet. Hold the squat for 10 to 30 seconds you can rest your hands on your knees.
Then slowly stand back up, pushing up from your knees with your arms, if you need to. Repeat this 5 times working up to more.
Pelvic tilts strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and help alleviate back pain during pregnancy and labor. To do pelvic tilts get on your hands and knees. Tilt your hips forward and pull your abdomen in. Your back should slightly round. Stay in this position for a few seconds then relax without letting your back sag. Repeat a couple of times, working up to 10.
Body changes that affect exercise during pregnancy
There are many changes happening in your body during pregnancy. First, joints are more flexible from the hormones which cause certain muscles to relax during pregnancy. Your center of gravity or equilibrium is shifted from the extra weight in the front, as well as, your shifting hips.
This can affect your balance as you near your due date. The extra weight will also cause your body to work harder than before you were pregnant.
All of these factors may affect how you exercise and what exercises you choose to do. Remember, it is always recommended you consult your healthcare provider about exercises for your specific situation.
Want to Know More?
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Guide To A Healthy Pregnancy. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.