Cardio slows ageing more effectively than lifting weights

But rather than taking up running, consider a spin class or cycling

We’re aware that the older you get, the more your muscles decline, meaning you really need to get out, keep active, push some weight, to make sure we don’t end up sitting on the sofa all day with our one-healthy bodies declining around us.

We recently wrote about the University of Michigan, which researched that as grip strength declines with age, our hands are important to enable us to continue to live for longer, thus suggesting we should lift weights as we age to retain our grip strength.

The latest research, published in the European Heart Journal, has found that  HIIT (high-intensity interval training), mixed with sprints and fast jogging, slowed or reversed the ageing process, but the same effect did not occur with lifting weights.

The research carried out by Leipzig University in Germany, monitored 266 healthy individuals, who were previously inactive, and then followed them whilst they each performed a different style of exercise. Each volunteer was given four regimes which included endurance running, HIIT, resistance training with weights and doing nothing at all (continuing with their current lifestyle).

The volunteers were asked to perform the exercise for 45-minute blocks, three times a week, for 6 months. The research was particularly keen to see how each exercise affected our cell structure, which changes as we age. Cells in our body are regarded as a cellular clock where their lifespan lessons as we grow older, offering our body less protection. The longer they retain their lifespan, the better we are at fighting the ageing process and fighting illness.

The research analysed an enzyme called telomerase, which is one of the central mechanisms responsible for the ageing of cells. Telomere length is associated with the likelihood of developing cancer. American research by Elizabeth Blackburn found that individuals found with the shortest telomere group were three times more likely to develop cancer than the longest telomere group within her ten year observation period. A similar correlation between long telomeres and less disease also exists for cardiovascular disease. In effect, having longer telomeres is beneficial for your health and fighting illness and the ageing process.

The results found that the individuals that were assigned the running and HIIT exercise had their telomerase activity increase as much as threefold, whilst those who stuck to the resistance weight training, showed no increase in telomerase activity at all.

There are plenty of benefits for lifting weights as you age, but this latest research shows you need to push your body, get your heart rate up and perform some fast-paced exercise to make sure you keep those body cells from deteriorating.

The only problem for us at Short Motivation is that HIIT and endurance running is much harder to achieve later in your life. The impact on your joints can make it tough to run fast unless you take to the hills and softer ground (take a look at the free Park Run activities if you are based in the UK). Our advice is to take up cycling. Perhaps consider a spin class at your local gym or buy a Peloton and cycle from your living room.


About Author

The co-founder of Short Motivation, Chris originates from a technology background, initially developing software and then migrating to the international magazine industry for the last 15 years. The idea for Short Motivation came from travelling through 2011 and eventually became reality six years later, in 2017.