High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can not only aid your health but also help you age more gracefully.

By Zee Krstic
December 10, 2018
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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.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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