After turning 50, running became my workout of choice, along with push-ups, planks and squats. I took the ‘slow and steady’ approach, easing into it so I wouldn’t jar my joints too much or get injured. For the most part, that has remained by exercise program, helping me to stay strong, fit, and maintain a good weight. It also put me on the path to successfully run four New York City Marathons, one in Edinburgh, and even a 60K ultra-marathon just last week. Amazingly, I’ve gotten faster with each one (well, except the ultra!).
While I know I am doing a lot of good for my body, I often wonder if I’m doing enough to really impact how I age.
As it turns out, regularly jolting your body can have an anti-aging effect on a deep, cellular level, where it really matters.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota invited 72 relatively healthy non-exercisers to participate in an experiment. One group trained exclusively with weights. A second group rode a stationary bike at a slow and steady pace for 30 minutes and also did strength-training on the “off” days. The third group was instructed to do a more challenging high intensity interval training (HIIT) session several times a week by pedaling the stationary bike as hard and fast as they could for four minutes, resting for three minutes, and then repeating the cycle a few times. The last group was asked to not exercise at all.
Except for the non-exercisers, after 12 weeks everyone improved in endurance, strength, and overall fitness. That wasn’t the big surprise, though.
When researchers analyzed cells extracted from their muscles, the results showed that the HIIT workout had the greatest impact on positively changing the structure of the cells. But an even bigger surprise was in store: the cells of those people who were older changed the most when compared to the younger participants.
How has this changed my workout?
I still go for nice steady runs. Running clears my head, calms me down, and are a source of joy. But, twice a week I do a HIIT running session by sprinting for 30 seconds as fast as I can, then walking for 30 seconds, repeating the cycle for 30 minutes or longer. It’s a terrific workout, and I usually try to do them on hills to strengthen lower body as well as my heart, lungs and cells.
Regularly doing this kind of speedwork has made me a faster, more efficient runner–even at the age of 60–but now there’s scientific proof that it’s also keeping my cells from aging faster than they should.
If running is not your first choice, you can also successfully do a HIIT session on a stationary bike or an elliptical. Watch my video below for tips on how to get started with your own HIIT program!
I’m convinced that jolting your body and brain sometimes is crucial for aging successfully, but never to the point of injury! Always get the green light from your doctor before starting anything new.
I’ve discovered all kinds of ways to stay healthy and fit for life–inside and out–and I share it all with you in my new book — LOVE YOUR AGE: The Small-Step Solution to a Better, Longer, Happier Life — which you can pre-order right here!
We can’t control getting older, but we can control how we do it!
New to HIIT? Check this out . . .