This is the first of a two-part blog on cellular and mitochondrial decay and aging. This week I’ll talk about mitochondrial decay and how exercise affects mitochondrial and cellular health. In Part Two, I will talk about specific peptides and other interventions that improve mitochondrial and cellular function.
Something often overlooked when addressing the process of aging is the health of your body at the cellular level. We are able treat the symptoms and signs of aging using aesthetic treatments, surgery, and hormone optimization, but it’s also key to understand what’s causing the aging of your body at the microscopic level. For this we need to focus on cellular health, and more specifically a specific component of your cells called mitochondria.
If you missed Biology 101, don’t worry. I’ll share with you the critical importance of cellular health, specifically mitochondrial health, and how improving it can protect your body from the ravages of aging.
What Are Mitochondria?
Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouses of your cells. They are responsible for the production of adenosine 5-triphosphate (ATP), which is essentially the gasoline that keeps your body running. Mitochondria also regulate a part of your immune system called innate immunity, regulate apoptosis (programmed cell death) and regulate stem cells and production of growth factors and inflammatory molecules. As you age, the degradation of your mitcochondria also affects your DNA directly, causing declines in energy and appearance.
“The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging” describes how over time mitochondrial decay creates byproducts called free radicals that lead to cell decay and death. I describe this as your body “rusting” from the inside. This certainly plays a part in the decline of how you look and feel and predisposes you to inflammation and chronic degenerative diseases.
So again, I can’t stress enough the importance of mitochondrial health.
Some Interesting Exercise Research to Consider
Some cell types have a multitude of mitochondria, which are critical for the energy production necessary to function properly and optimally. Your muscle cells are specifically of interest, as they contain a huge number of mitochondria which decline in number and efficiency as you age.
Although this is an issue that all people will deal with at some point in their life, there are ways to combat this and to increase the number and power of your mitochondria. A new research study looked at cellular metabolism and examined the impact of specific workouts that target the health and longevity of your mitochondria.
Exercise researchers at the Mayo Clinic were particularly interested in this, and conducted an experiment looking at sedentary men and women between the ages of 30 and 64. Each participant was given one of four exercise regimens in order to see the effect on their blood-sugar levels and the health of their mitochondria.
The exercise regimens varied between four groups, including a) endurance cycling and weightlifting, b) high intensity interval training (HIIT), and c) intense weight training. The d) final group did not exercise (as a control).
After three months of experimentation, it was found that mitochondrial health and blood-sugar regulation in all the exercise groups had improved. It was also seen that the exercises focused on HIIT primarily improved endurance, while weightlifting increased muscle mass and strength.
But the results on a cellular level were the most interesting. Amongst the younger participants, 274 genes were beneficially altered by HIIT, followed by 170 genes for moderate exercise, and 74 genes for weight training. In the older group, 400 genes were beneficially altered in the HIIT training group, 33 genes for the weight training group, and 19 genes for the moderate exercise group.
In sum, participants who partook in HIIT had the highest benefit, and this benefit was most profound among the oldest people in the group!
What Does This Mean for Me?
Simply put, exercise can help repair damage to your mitochondria, and specific exercises become more important as you age. While weight training is crucial to build lean muscle and maintain bone health, this new research shows HIIT training improves DNA expression (and therefore mitochondrial health) at any age but most profoundly in the older population (by over 4x)!
So if you want to optimally improve your cellular health you should balance weight training , endurance training, and HIIT training the right way. Instead of lower intensity running, HIIT is one of the best ways to improve body composition.
How Do Hormones Affect This?
While I just explained the importance of the right types of exercise to consider as you age, I want to explain the ways your hormones are affected by the type of training you do, and how this will improve the health of your cells.
HIIT training is vastly superior to traditional low intensity exercise (walking, jogging, hiking, etc.), and it has to do with the recruitment of what are called ‘fast twitch’ muscle fibers, and how this impacts the hormones in your endocrine system.
When you train intensely, a byproduct of this is lactic acid. While lactic acid is often thought of a sign of overtraining, it actually stimulates the utilization of powerful fat burning hormones such as testosterone and HGH to work their magic. Blood levels taken after intense exercise have shown increased recruitment of both testosterone and HGH. It’s called the hormonal effect of exercise. Simply put, HIIT training will not only improve the health and number of your mitochondria as well as overall cellular health, but has been shown to burn fat at 9x the rate of traditional aerobic exercise! Now that’s really some fat burning!
Something else to consider is the potentially negative consequences of too much low intensity exercise. If you have seen the cardio fanatics at the gym, concerned with hitting a certain time or caloric burn, you may have noticed that some are on the treadmill or elliptical day after day but do not appear to be making much progress aesthetically. This is due to the fact that over time, cortisol (a fat storing hormone) is produced in higher amounts as a result of repetitive low-intensity exercise. Their workouts start working against them!
While you can start today by beginning HIIT training to prevent and reverse aging, there’s also a high likelihood that if you have a hormonal imbalance, your efforts will fall short.
Having optimal levels of HGH, testosterone, thyroid, Vitamin D, DHEA and low levels of insulin and cortisol provide you the best chance at slowing the signs and symptoms of aging as well as protection against disease. We conduct a full hormonal panel to determine which hormones are deficient (or in excess) and correct them. It’s like filling your tank with high quality gasoline and changing the oil so your body runs as efficiently as possible.
We also offer Intelligent Exercise recommendations and support to help you achieve a greater level of confidence and the best results possible in your fitness program.