Three recent studies (published in 2017) point to certain exercises, and performing the exercises at a certain intensity, lead to reversing the aging process and allow us to live longer. The studies were conducted by the Mayo Clinic, Brigham Young University and the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Below are summaries of each study.

Mayo Clinic Study

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic published a study in the journal Cell Metabolism in March 2017. The researchers recruited hundreds of adults and selected 72 sedentary adults separated into two groups- 18 to 30-year olds and 65 to 80-year olds, basically a young group and an old group.

The participants were assigned to one of three exercise programs for 12 weeks, high-intensity interval cycling (alternating workouts of short periods of intense aerobic activity combined with less intense periods of recovery), strength-training (with weights, resistance or using your body weight), or a combination of high-intensity training with resistance training.  For the study, the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) consisted of cycling three days per week for four 4-minute high-intensity intervals followed by 3-minute periods of less intense recovery. It also included two days per week of walking on a treadmill.

For readers wondering how much time this adds up to each week…although I could not find the exact amount of time each day for the HIIT… using the information published, it looks that would be three days per week of 28 minutes (4 interval of 4-minutes of intense cycling and 4 intervals of 3-minutes of less intense cycling) and two days per week of walking for (I assume for the same amount of time, approximately 32 minutes).  That’s five days per week with only three of those days being harder high-intensity workouts.  That seems doable!

Here is where the study finding are interesting for older adults. The HIIT has been found to not only burn more calories and fat and boost metabolism than more traditional workout methods, it can also reverse the signs of aging at the cellular level. It increased the mitochondrial activity (the cell’s ability to take in oxygen and produce energy) for the older group by 69%. Since mitochondria and ribosomes tend to deteriorate as people get older, keeping these healthy can reverse some of the age-related decline with cells.

Two good summaries of the study and results can be read in Health and the New York Times.

Access to the entire study requires purchase from the Cell Metabolism website:

Brigham Young University Study

Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that a certain type of physical exercise can slow the aging process and match the age progression of a person as much as nine years younger. The study looked at 5,823 adults who had participated in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention research project called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The study specifically tracked the degree to which the study participants engaged in 62 types of exercise over a 30-day period.

The CDC study also looked what is called “telomere length values.”  The BYU press release explains that telomeres are the “nucleotide endcaps of our chromosomes.” They went on to state that “They’re like our biological clock and they’re extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Therefore, the older we get, the shorter the telomeres.”

Combing through the CDC study, BYU researchers were able to correlate people’s physical activity levels with the length of their telomeres.  Only people who engaged in high levels of physical activity had the cells that resembled the cells of a much younger person.

The BYU researchers defined high levels of physical activity to be 30 minutes of jogging for women, 40 minutes of jogging for men- and it needed to be done five times per week.

Good summaries of the study can be found at this BYU site (the comments give some additional info from the study), and in Time.

The abstract and a full copy of the study published in the July 2017 issue of Preventive Medicine can be purchased from Science Direct.

American Journal of Epidemiology Study

This study included 80,000 adults over age 30 is the largest yet that compared different types of exercise with longevity.  The study found that combining strength training with aerobic exercise reduced the risk of premature death from a variety of outcomes by more than only doing aerobic exercise. While prior studies have shown that maintaining lean muscle is important for maintaining quality of life as we age, this study demonstrates that strength training also reduces the risk of dying younger from a variety of causes such as disease.

The study advises exercise consisting of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week or 75 minutes of higher intensity activity per week and strength training of all muscle groups twice each week. The good news is that the same results can be gained for the strength training from doing push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, planks and other similar exercises as it can from lifting weights.

A good review of the study and results can be read in Men’s Health.


The three studies show that exercise, especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT) combined with strength training is extremely valuable for creating a healthy body; a body that can be younger than its physical age and one that can be active and healthy for many years longer.  The great thing about what the studies reveal is that this HIIT workout doesn’t require a huge time commitment.  In addition, the weight training required doesn’t have to be done using weight or a gym, it can be as simple as doing push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, planks and other exercises only using your body weight.