High-intensity interval training may have anti-aging benefits, study finds

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WATCH Is interval training the secret to staying young?

Exercising by doing interval training, not weight lifting, could be the secret to staying young, according to a new study published Tuesday in the medical journal "Cell Metabolism."

High-intensity aerobic interval training--or exercising in bursts of moderate and high-intensity running, cycling, or other aerobic activity--may help to reduce the effects of aging at a cellular level, researchers found.

Scientists analyzed three groups of people who were exercising by doing high-intensity aerobic interval training, resistance training, or a combination of the two, over the course of a 12-week period.

While scientists found that all three types of exercise improved participants' lean body mass, at a cellular level, they found that the group participating in the high intensity interval training also saw improvements in the exercise capacity of their muscle's mitochondria. As people age, their mitochondria, which are responsible for producing energy for your cells, become less efficient.

High intensity interval training essentially "reversed" many "age-related differences" in aspects of elderly participants' mitochondria, the researchers wrote in the study's summary.

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor, called the study's findings "very interesting."

"When they looked at the cellular level, the changes they saw in the older people’s cells with the high-intensity [training] made those cells look more like younger people’s cells in terms of how they handled energy,” Besser said today on "Good Morning America." “That was very interesting.”

Chris Powell, trainer and transformation specialist on ABC's “Extreme Weight Loss," said the term high-intensity interval training can be "terrifying" to people, but it should not be.

"High intensity interval training is just aerobic training with short bouts of weight training in between," Powell said today on "GMA." "The beauty of it though is that we get to control the throttle of our own workouts."

He continued, "It doesn’t matter if you’re an elite athlete or you haven’t moved for 10 years...It’s all about completing, not competing."

Besser advised people to consult with their medical doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen, including high-intensity interval training.

This training, also known as HIIT, can be done using just your own body weight and with minimal to no equipment, according to Powell.

Aerobic training can be accomplished by jump roping, running in place or doing jumping jacks or high knees, the trainer said. Weight training can be done with exercises such as push ups, lunges and back squats.

Powell demonstrated a HIIT workout of 20 high knees combined with 10 back lunges.

"It’s that simple," he said. "There’s a million different combinations. You can do it so many different ways."

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