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Hurry up and wait!

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Hurry up and wait! Interval training may slow the aging process.

How’s your cell service? We don’t mean your mobile-phone reception; we’re talking about the cells in your body. Inside those cells are small but mighty structures called mitochondria, microscopic “power plants” that convert food and oxygen into energy. As we age, our mitochondria slowly lose their capacity to generate energy, but according to recent research, a type of exercise known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may counteract that deterioration and keep your cells “young.” In HIIT, you alternate brief bursts of vigorous exercise, like sprinting or riding an exercise bike full-tilt, with brief recovery periods. Instead of, say, a 45-minute walk or jog at a steady pace (which is also great for you, of course!), a HIIT workout may last just 15-minutes, with alternating sprints and rest. In a recent study, a 12-week program of HIIT was shown to improve mitochondrial capacity by 48 percent in a group of young adults and by a whopping 69 percent in a group of older adults. HIIT also improved insulin sensitivity, which can help prevent diabetes and heart disease. If you want to try your hand (and feet, and everything else) at HIIT, ease into it if you’re out of shape, and talk with your doctor if you’ve been sedentary or have a chronic condition. “You can adjust your exercise-to-rest ratios depending on your fitness level,” notes Cleveland Clinic exercise specialist Ryan Sidak. “Begin by using a 1:2 ratio of exercise to rest — 20 seconds of exercise and 40 seconds of rest. As you become stronger, try moving to a ratio of 1:1 so that both intervals are equal.” Be sure to add some strength training in, too. Now you're ready to HIIT it!