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Ageing and its Effects on Muscles

Ageing has long-lasting effects on our body all the way down to the cellular level. The effect on older cells which do not regenerate as easily is more pronounced. This is mainly because the mitochondria of these cells are not able to function efficiently. Mitochondria are responsible for the release of energy in the cell during respiration. Energy which is needed to perform various activities including growth and repair.

A recent article published by Cell Metabolism sheds new light on the much talked about methods of reversing mitochondrial damage.

A ground-breaking study undertaken by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, suggests that there is hope for worn out mitochondria through specific type of exercises.

Its common knowledge that exercise is beneficial for us but it’s surprising to find out that scientists know very little about the exact mechanisms which produce these effects and how they vary according to the age and health of the individual.

Experiments were carried out between a group of 74 people, who were either younger than 30 or older than 64. The common factor between them is that they lived rather inactive lives.

Initially, their standard measurements for blood sugar, gene activity and other levels related to cardiovascular fitness were determined. They were then chosen at random for various levels of fitness training.

These training programs included rigorous weight training and alternating between intense pedalling for 4 minutes and resting for short periods thrice a week.

Another test group were told to exercise in moderation by lifting weights and on alternate days, cycle on stationary bikes.

As a control, a portion of the test subjects were told not to exercise at all. At the end of the allocated time, all members of the study underwent biopsies of their muscular tissues. Their cells revealed some startling results.

There were significant changes in the DNA activity of the younger subjects who practiced interval training. These included a change in 274 genes. Those who exercised in moderation saw a change in 133 genes while a change in a mere 33 was obtained from specimens of those who only lifted weights.

A similar pattern was observed for their older counterparts, those who participated in interval training saw a change in activity in 400 genes. Significantly lower changes of just 33 was observed for those who participated in lifting weights and 19 for those who exercised moderately.

The scientists interpreted these results as conclusive proof that these short bursts of intense training coupled with sufficient rest periods were effectively improving the activity mitochondria.

The most pressing evidence to support this theory is that the majority of the affected genes were related to the control and increased production of energy within mitochondria.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is something you can do to achieve the same results. It is an effective exercise protocol which involves intense but short bouts of anaerobic cardiovascular workouts alternating with a comparatively slower recovery period. The cardio portions should be performed at maximum intensity while the rest period should only be 50 percent of the normal.

Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

  • They burn the maximum number of calories in a shorter amount of time, thus resulting in a highly effective workout.
  • It burns more fat even during the resting periods.
  • Fat is also burned more efficiently even after the workout is over.
  • The intense workout boosts one’s system into overdrive, meaning you can continue at the same pace for almost twice as long
  • Overall improvement of cardiovascular health is observed, including a reduction in cholesterol and insulin resistance.

Types of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Exercises



The stationary bike allows you to work out in a controlled environment suitable to your tastes. It is most effective for building up muscles in the leg area.

Interval training set: Set your bike to the highest resistance level and push your hardest for 20 seconds

Recovery Period: Lower your resistance level and cycle for 90 seconds allowing your body to recover.

Repeat this process 6 times.

Cool down:

Cool down by cycling at a much lower resistance level and walk for around two minutes.

As your fitness level improves, adjust your high resistance levels accordingly. Further workouts could be added if you are feeling up to it.



Swimming is one of the best exercises for the elderly, overweight or those with poor health to participate in. Every muscle in your body works to push the body through water in a matter that has little to no impact on the joints.

A good 5 to 10-minute warm-up is a must before any high-intensity training. You can perform many different strokes as you want or simply stick to one, the choice is yours.

A beginner generally sticks to the freestyle stroke, other popular options are the butterfly and the backstroke. Similarly, as with the cycle workout, you should pace yourself according to your fitness level.

The cardio interval portion of the workout should be performed at the highest intensity level that your body can manage without great physical discomfort.

Interval Training Set: 1 sprint lap

Recovery period: 1 slow lap

Repeat 4 to 6 times



Boxing is a hard-hitting way to fight obesity. It’s also fun and high energy. Most beginners start with freestyle punching before working their way up to targeted punching.

Once you have improved your fitness level you can move up to a variety of moves such as a jab crosses, hooks, and uppercuts.

The same formula applies as per the previous workouts which involve pushing your body to the max for about 30 seconds and then recovering.

Perform a light warm-up and take precautions by wearing the appropriate gloves.

Interval Training Set: High intensity 30 seconds of freestyle targeted punching

Recovery period: 2 to 3 minutes of walking

Repeat 4 to 6 times

HIIT is perfect for adults going through the ageing process since it has positive effects on molecular and metabolic aspects of the body. Some aspects of the ageing process are reversed through HIIT, through the function of proteins. Muscle strength can also be considerably increased through resistance training. HIIT will only augment muscle strength and mass by its combination with resistance training exercises.

Adnan Munye

A certified personal trainer, Adnan specialises in weight loss, muscle building, body conditioning, core strengthening and injury rehabilitation. Adnan comes from a sporting background, where he has played football, badminton, rugby, and swimming all at various levels.

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