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Exercise 

The toll that aging takes on a body extends all the way down to the cellular level. But the damage accrued by cells in older muscles is especially severe, because they do not regenerate easily and they become weaker as their mitochondria, which produce energy, diminish in vigor and number.

Exercise is good for people, as everyone knows. But scientists have surprisingly little understanding of its cellular impacts and how those might vary by activity and the age of the exerciser. 

A study by Mayo Clinic published in Cell Metabolism suggests that certain sorts of workouts may undo some of what the years can do to our mitochondria.


Mayo Clinic Experiment

72 healthy but sedentary men and women who were 30 or younger
72 men and women older than 64.

Baseline measures established were:

  1. Aerobic fitness,

  2. Blood-sugar levels

  3. Gene activity and mitochondrial health in their muscle cells

The volunteers were randomly assigned to 3 particular exercise regimens.

  1. Weight Training (3x/week)

  2. Brief Interval training 3x/week (4 min. intense + 3 min. mild x 3) repeated 3 times.

  3. Combination of:
    Stationary bike (moderate pace) x 30 min. 3x/week alternating w light weight lifting on other days.

  4. No exercise.

It seems as if the decline in the cellular health of muscles associated with aging was “corrected” with exercise, especially if it was intense, says Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, a professor of medicine and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic and the study’s senior author.

In fact, older people’s cells responded in some ways more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the young did — suggesting, he says, that it is never too late to benefit from exercise.

The toll that aging takes on a body extends all the way down to the cellular level. But the damage accrued by cells in older muscles is especially severe, because they do not regenerate easily and they become weaker as their mitochondria, which produce energy, diminish in vigor and number.