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Health & Exercise Forum

Certain types of exercise may have anti-aging properties

Mar 26, 2018


Dr. Gino Mori, traversing Zion National Park with trekking poles.

This column is dedicated to my friend and mentor, Dr. Gino Mori, who sent me this research study as a contribution to my column to raise the level of awareness and improve the health and wellness of the people of NEPA. Dr. Gino, who recently turned 85 years young, is the consummate “Renaissance Man,” who strives to challenge himself to be better; physically, spiritually and intellectually! Thank you Dr. Gino!

The deterioration and degeneration of the body associated with the aging process is well-documented and the musculoskeletal system is no exception. As we age, weight bearing joints of the lower body (hips and knees) frequently suffer from wear and tear degeneration. Loss of muscle mass and strength is also common with age. Specifically, damage to older muscles has been found to regenerate slowly and incompletely and the problem runs as deep as the cellular level as the mitochondria diminish in quality and quantity. However, there is good news: a recent study published this spring in Cell Metabolism suggests that certain types of exercise can actually regenerate and reverse the aging mitochondria.

As popular and common as exercise is, little is known about the influence and impact it has at the cellular level. A research team at the Mayo Clinic decided to answer this question and conducted an experiment to determine the cellular effects of different types of exercise on aging muscles.


The Mayo team chose 72 men and women and separated them into two groups; 30 and under and older than 64. All subjects were healthy but sedentary. Pre test analysis was performed for blood sugar levels, gene activity, muscle cell mitochondrial health, and aerobic fitness level. Subjects from the 30 and under group and the over 64 group were randomly assigned to one of four research groups. Group One: Vigorous weight training 3-5 times per week, Group Two: Interval aerobic exercise on a stationary bike (pedaling hard and fast for four minutes followed by a recovery at a slow pace for three minutes then repeating the sequence 3 or more times) 3 times per week, Group Three: Moderate aerobic exercise on a stationary bike for 30 minutes 2-3 days per week and light weight lifting on the other 2-3 days, Group Four: Control group who did not exercise. After 12 weeks, lab tests were repeated and data compiled and analyzed.


In the 30 and under group as well as the over 64 group, all three experimental groups improved in fitness level and blood sugar regulation. As expected, Group One, the vigorous weight training group, showed the greatest gains in muscle mass and strength. Also, not surprisingly, Group Two, the interval training group, had the greatest gains in endurance. However, the most unexpected results came when retesting the muscle cells by biopsy. Only group two, the interval aerobic exercise group demonstrated the most significant improvement in the activity levels of their genes in both the young and older groups, when compared to the vigorous weight training and moderate exercise groups. Moreover, the positive improvements in the genes of the older group far surpassed that found in the younger group. For example, in the younger group, 274 genes improved compared to 170 genes in the moderate exercise and 74 in the vigorous weight training. In the older group, 400 genes were improved in the interval aerobic group while 33 for weight training and 19 for moderate exercise groups.


It is well know that loss of muscle mass and strength is common with age. Specifically, older muscles have been found to regenerate slowly and incompletely and the problem runs as deep as the cellular level as the mitochondria diminish in quality and quantity. However, this study suggests that interval aerobic exercise can actually regenerate and reverse the aging mitochondria. Healthier mitochondria are able to produce energy for muscle cells to function at a higher level.


Interval aerobic exercise can have anti-aging effects. In fact, the older your muscles, the more you will benefit from, not just moderate exercise, but more vigorous interval aerobic exercise. Furthermore, interval training may be applied, not only to aerobic exercise, but to weight training for the upper and lower body. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, high intensity interval training, also called HIIT workouts, involves a repetition of a series of high-intensity exercise (aerobic or weight training) for a specific period of time (3-5 minutes)  followed by a specific period of rest or low-intensity exercise (1-3 minutes). The intensity can be increased by speed or resistance. HIIT workouts have been associated with increased caloric expenditure with less exercise time, as well as improved strength and endurance. Most recently, it has been found to improve cell energy in the aging population. However, do not attempt to increase the intensity of your exercise program without consulting with your physician first. Once medially approved, consult with a doctor of physical therapy to create a program specifically designed for you.

Therefore, if your gene pool is questionable like most of us, don’t use that as an excuse.  There are things you can do to have a positive impact on your DNA to live longer and healthier…one of them is EXERCISE!

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.