Our culture is obsessed with aging. So much so that entire industries revolve around creating the next “it” thing to combat aging. Even scientists have joined the fray. And what they’ve found may astound you. It turns out that the key to living longer is exercise. However, there is a catch. The type of exercise scientists say improve longevity the most is high intensity training.
The key to longevity is telomeres.
For the past few decades, scientists have consistently found that aging and age-related diseases are linked to the decay of telomeres. What are telomeres? They are caps on the ends of our chromosomes responsible for preventing our genetic material from unwinding. They act in the same way as wax knobs are used to cap off the ends of a rope.
Over time, our telomeres shorten, which allows genetic mutations to take place. Staying with our rope analogy, it’s similar to when the wax caps on the end of a rope wear down and the threads of the rope begin to split apart. It is this process that is most associated with the process of aging.
Scientist have found exercise slows telomere decay.
Scientists from Brigham Young University conducted a study on the effect of exercise on telomere decay. What they found should make Crossfit gurus the world over jump for joy. High intensity training, i.e. the kind of training you pay a personal trainer to do while you whine through the entire experience, can reduce telomere shortening by a decade or more. In fact, researchers found all forms of exercise helped slow telomere decay. Their research found a direct relationship between intensity of exercise and the slowing of telomere decay. The harder participants exercised, the slower their telomeres shortened.
The study has yet to be replicated, but initial peer reviews are promising. What it shows is that intense training reduces the rate of aging, and in turn may prevent age related disease. At the very least, high intensity training has a huge potential to delay aging.
What is High Intensity Training?
High intensity training consists of short bursts of intense exercise, followed by periods of rest. Think of a sprinter on a track who runs all out for 100 meters, then walks for an eighth of a mile, followed again by a sprint. In our blog, we’ve discussed the benefits of this training style using a stationary spin bike. Intervals of high intensity followed by recovery periods are a great way to accomplish high intensity.
Beware to not confuse our use of the term high intensity training with HIIT, a popular fitness buzzword. HIIT is a style of training that is high in intensity, but is not synonymous with what we are talking about. High intensity training is the principle, and HIIT is an actual routine. Certain forms of weight training count as high intensity. Additionally, certain forms of cardio count as well, but do not qualify as HIIT. The important thing to glean from the recent study is this: the harder you train, the slower you’ll age. It’s as simple as that.