Exercise may possibly help delay or even stop aging at the cellular level, according to researchers, in a new study published in Cell Metabolism.

According to the study, exercise—especially high-intensity interval training in aerobic exercises such as biking and walking—may cause cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes.

“Based on everything we know, there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the aging process,” says study senior author Sreekumaran Nair, a medical doctor and diabetes researcher at the Mayo Clinic, in a media release from Cell Press. “These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine.”

In the study, the researchers divided the participants—36 men and 36 women from two age groups: 18 to 30 years old, or 65 to 80 years old—into three different exercise programs, where they performed either high-intensity interval training, strength training with weights, or a combination of strength training and interval training.

Then, the research team took biopsies from the volunteers’ thigh muscles, and compared the molecular makeup of their muscle cells to samples from sedentary volunteers. They also assessed the volunteers’ amount of lean muscle mass and insulin sensitivity, per the release.

The researchers suggest that while strength training was effective at building muscle mass, high-intensity interval training yielded the biggest benefits at the cellular level. The younger volunteers in the interval training group saw a 49% increase in mitochondrial capacity, and the older volunteers saw an even more dramatic 69% increase.

Interval training also improved volunteers’ insulin sensitivity, which indicates a lower likelihood of developing diabetes. However, interval training was less effective at improving muscle strength, which typically declines with aging, the release explains.

Nair stresses in the release that the point of the study was not to develop exercise recommendations, but rather to understand the benefits of exercise at the molecular level.

“There are substantial basic science data to support the idea that exercise is critically important to prevent or delay aging,” Nair concludes. “There’s no substitute for that.”

[Source(s): Cell Press, Science Daily]