Exercise can help you sleep better, helps boost the immune system, helps keep your mind sharp, and helps maintain muscle tone. Although it’s long been suspected by researchers that exercise benefits down to the cellular level, relatively little is known regarding which exercises can help cells restore the key organelles which deteriorate as we get older. Researchers have found that high-intensity interval training triggers cells to produce more proteins for their protein building ribosomes and their energy generating mitochondria, which effectively stops cellular level aging.
A “young” group and an “older” group were created from the 36 women and 36 men who were enrolled in the study. The “young” group was comprised of 18-30 year old participants and the “older” group was comprised of 65-80 old participants. They were divided into 3 different exercise regimens: one group of participants did high-intensity interval biking, another group of participants did weight strength training, and another group did a combination of interval training and strength training. Biopsies were then taken from the thigh muscles of the participants and the muscle cell molecular makeup was compared to samples of muscle cells taken from sedentary participants. Insulin sensitivity and lean muscle mass of the participants was assessed as well.
They discovered that although strength training is good to build muscle mass, better results were produced at the cellular level with high-intensity interval training. The younger participants from the interval training group had an increase of 49% in mitochondrial capacity, and an even more dramatic increase of 69% in the older participants. Insulin sensitivity was also improved with interval training, indicating a lower chance of getting diabetes. But, interval training was not as effective at increasing muscle strength, which normally diminishes as we get older. High-intensity interval training is recommended by the researchers if only one exercise was chosen, but it would be best to have 3 or 4 days of interval training and also 1 or 2 days of strength training.
The study’s focus was not on establishing recommendations, but instead to focus on how exercise benefits at the molecular level. The energy producing capacity of the mitochondria of cells gradually diminishes as we age. By making a comparison of proteomic and RNA-sequencing data from individuals on the different exercise regimens, proof was found that exercise stimulates the cell to generate more gene coding RNA copies for proteins of the mitochondria and proteins in charge of the growth of muscle. The ability of ribosomes to build proteins of the mitochondria also seemed to improve with exercise. The content increase of muscle protein was the most impressive discovery. In some instances, the high-intensity biking program in fact appeared to reverse age-related decline in the function of the mitochondria and proteins necessary for muscle building.
The ribosomes responsible for the production of the protein building blocks of the cells were also rejuvenated with the high-intensity biking program. A powerful increase in protein synthesis of the mitochondria was also seen. Protein content increase explains enhanced function of the mitochondria and muscle hypertrophy. The ability of exercise to enhance these key organelles could be an explanation to why our health benefits in numerous different ways from exercise.