As we get older, our muscles start to show signs of ageing. We tend to have less muscle cells, and the ones that remain are less efficient the older we get. But could there be a way to stop this ageing process in it’s tracks, or even reverse it when we are older?
A 2017 study indicates the answer is yes, but while any exercise will offer some health benefits… it’s a little more complicated than that. A lot of the anti-ageing effectiveness depends on the type of exercise you choose to take part in.
So what if I just start walking?
Walking is a low to moderate intensity form of aerobic exercise. If you usually aren’t very active then starting to walk, or choosing another moderate intensity form of cardio such as cycling can help increase your cardiovascular fitness a little, help your body process sugar slightly more efficiently, and may reduce body fat and/or increase muscle mass to some extent as well.
What if I start doing resistant training?
It makes sense that if you force your muscles to work- lifting weights, moving against a force or resistance- that they will get stronger. What this study found is that while resistance training did increase muscle and helped stabilise blood sugar levels, that it didn’t improve cardiovascular fitness.
So what’s the winning workout?
The workout found to have the greatest effect on reversing the effects of ageing on muscles? High intensity interval training. If you’ve never heard of this type of workout, it’s where you complete short bursts of exercise at the highest intensity that you can manage, then take rest breaks in between.
While this kind of training can come with a higher risk of injury in older individuals, with correct technique and appropriate choice of exercises HIIT can be a very effective way to increase strength, cardiovascular fitness, reverse muscle loss, and improve blood sugar control.
If you are considering this type of workout it’s always bet to get the okay from your doctor first, and get help and supervision from a qualified trainer for maximum benefit with minimum risk.