A recent study published in the journal Mechanisms of Aging and Development confirms the "anti-aging" effect of high-intensity training.
Telomere shortening occurs as you age, however the factors involved are not entirely understood as of yet. The study was conducted to determine whether age-associated telomere shortening is related to habitual endurance exercise and maximal aerobic capacity.
The results suggest there's a direct association between reduced telomere shortening in your later years and high-intensity-type exercises.
The authors' state:
"The results of the present study provide evidence that leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is related to regular vigorous aerobic exercise and maximal aerobic exercise capacity with aging in healthy humans.
LTL is not influenced by aerobic exercise status among young subjects, presumably because TL is intact (i.e., already normal) in sedentary healthy young adults.
However, as LTL shortens with aging it appears that maintenance of aerobic fitness, produced by chronic strenuous exercise and reflected by higher VO2max, acts to preserve LTL.
… Our results indicate that leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is preserved in healthy older adults who perform vigorous aerobic exercise and is positively related to maximal aerobic exercise capacity. This may represent a novel molecular mechanism underlying the "anti-aging" effects of maintaining high aerobic fitness."
But that's not all.
High-intensity interval-type training also boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production. A 2003 study published in the journal Sports Medicine found that "exercise intensity above lactate threshold and for a minimum of 10 minutes appears to elicit the greatest stimulus to the secretion of HGH."
The studies listed above scientifically confirm the phenomenal "anti-aging" power of short burst, high-intensity type exercises. It's a commonly ignored exercise technique that can make a most dramatic difference in your health.
The two primary anti-aging effects created by these types of exercises are:
- Reduced age-related telomere shortening, and
- Increased production of human growth hormone (HGH)
I will review the implications of both of these effects in this article, and will give you a run-down of the type of exercise that will achieve these benefits.
What is a Telomere?
Your body is made up of some 10 trillion cells, and according to one theory, you age because your cells age. Therefore, if you can control the aging process in your cells, you should be able to control your aging, and this is where stopping age-related telomere shortening comes in.
Many anti-aging experts agree that this approach is, without question, one of the most exciting methods that holds great promise to not only slow the aging process but actually REVERSE it!
Each of your cells has a nucleus, which contains the chromosomes that in turn contain your genes. The chromosome is made up of two "arms," and each arm contains a single molecule DNA, which is essentially a string of beads made up of units called bases.
A typical DNA molecule is about 100 million bases long, and at the very tip of each arm of the chromosome is where you'll find the telomere.
Your telomeres shorten every time your cell divides, starting at the moment of conception. If you were to unravel the tip of the chromosome, a telomere is about 15,000 bases long at the moment of conception, and once your telomeres have been reduced to about 5,000 bases, you will essentially die of old age.
For a more in-depth explanation of telomeres and the shortening process, please see this previous article.
There is a certain intrinsic rate of telomere shortening that occurs just to keep you alive. That is why even with a perfect diet and exercise program no one lives past 120 years old.
However exposure to environmental insults like free radicals, trans fats, obesity, smoking and other toxins can actually accelerate this basal telomere shortening considerably so you can die of "old age" at 70.
It was previously believed that this telomere shortening process could not be affected or stopped by healthy eating habits or exercise. Now, researchers have discovered that both diet and specific training may indeed be able to do just that!
Good News - - High-Intensity Exercise May Limit Age-Related Telomere Shortening
In an exciting study published earlier this year, the researchers discovered that there's a direct association between reduced telomere shortening in your later years and high-intensity-type exercises—a perfect example of which is Sprint 8, which I'll review below.
This is very exciting, as the prospect of being able to reduce telomere shortening—essentially stopping the cellular aging process that eventually kills you—is one of the most promising anti-aging strategies we know of to date.
Sprint 8 Exercises Effectively Increases Human Growth Hormone Production
The other exciting benefit of Sprint 8-style exercises is its ability to naturally increase your body's production of human growth hormone (HGH), which also plays a significant role in the aging process.
I recently ran an interview with fitness expert Phil Campbell, in which he further expounds on this important topic. Campbell is the author of the book Ready Set Go, which explains how exercises that engage your super-fast muscle fibers can increase your HGH levels, and I had the great pleasure of meeting him at a fitness camp in Cancun, Mexico, earlier this year.
He taught me how to apply this high-intensity exercise technique, and it has literally transformed my physique and physical health the way no other form of exercise ever has!
It is called Sprint 8 because if you graph your heart rate, you will see that it peaks eight times during the workout. (A sample chart of my heart rate is below.)This technique is exponentially superior to regular cardio workouts and you're doing yourself a great disservice if you ignore it.
I've been doing Sprint 8 exercises two or three times a week now since April of 2010, and so far I've lost over 17 pounds of fat and gained over 5 pounds of muscle.
- Lowered overall Body Fat % from 17.4% down to 9.1%
- Melted17.4 lbs. of fat
- Gained 5.4 lbs. of muscle
- Lost 3 3/16 inches off my waistline
Please note that there are many ways to measure body fat. Mine was done with skin fold calipers and by the same person every time. MRI and DEXA scans are likely far more accurate but they were not convenient for me The important element in monitoring body fat percentage is consistency as you are looking to monitor the changes that occur. Some may also complain about the different lighting in the photos but I can assure that was not intentional and merely an artifact of the personal trainer, not a professional photographer, using his inexpensive digital camera.
The reason why this form of exercise is so effective is largely due to what the researchers found in the second study listed above: high-intensity Sprint 8-exercises promote human growth hormone (HGH), also known as "the fitness hormone."
That study, published in 2003 found that "an exercise intensity above lactate threshold and for a minimum of 10 minutes appears to elicit the greatest stimulus to the secretion of HGH."
As you will see later, this is exactly what you do when performing Sprint 8 exercises. If performed correctly, meaning intensely enough, you'll feel that muscle "burn," which is a sign of lactic acid being released.
Another study published in 2002 also found that there's a "linear relationship between the magnitude of the acute increase in growth hormone release and exercise intensity."
In young women, "chronic aerobic training at an intensity greater than the lactate threshold resulted in a 2-fold increase in the growth hormone released over a 24-hour period." Here's where the regularity of your exercise comes into play, as ideally you'll want to maintain this HGH release continually elevated. That said, doing Sprint 8 more than three times a week can be counterproductive.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) for Health and Longevity
HGH is a synergistic, foundational biochemical underpinning that promotes muscle and effectively burns excessive fat. It also plays an important part in promoting overall health and longevity.
If you're over the age of 30, especially if you lead an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, you've likely entered a phase known as somatopause (age-related growth hormone deficiency). As your HGH levels decrease, your levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) also decrease. This is another important part of what drives your body's aging process.
Interestingly enough, telomere length is also modulated by the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor system, which confirms the beneficial influence of high-intensity exercises on physical aging.
According to a study published in 2008, the two interventions most consistently associated with increased lifespan in animal models are caloric restriction and repression of the HGH/IGF-1/insulin axis.
The authors explain:
"In humans as well as other species, a reduction in the GH/IGF-1 axis is correlated with increased percentage of total body and visceral fat, decreased muscle mass, decreased physical fitness, decreased immune function, and physiological declines in estrogen and androgen concentrations.
Thus, the natural declines in GH and IGF-1 that accompanies age-related degenerative processes implies that the GH/IGF-1 axis may be a causative determinant."
Why Sprint 8 Exercises are the Only Type of Exercise Capable of Increasing Your Levels of the "Fitness Hormone"
If you watch children (and most animals), you'll see perfect examples of natural movement. They don't run marathons, but rather sprint about at high speeds for short amounts of time, resting in between spurts. Essentially, they're performing "Sprint 8" exercises instinctually.
Your body was designed for this type of movement, and in response it produces growth hormone! HGH is what helps children grow, and in adulthood it's helps you maintain optimal health and youthful vigor.
In order to better grasp the benefits of Peak Fitness exercises, you first need to understand that you have three different types of muscle fibers:
- Slow (red, oxygen-rich muscle)
- Fast (also red muscle that oxygenates quickly, but is five times faster than the slow fibers)
- Super-fast (white muscle fibers that contain far less blood and mitochondria)
The super-fast muscles are the only muscle fibers that have any major impact on your production of HGH.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people, including many athletes such as marathon runners, only train using their slow muscle fibers, which can actually cause the super-fast fibers to decrease or atrophy.
It's important to understand that neither traditionally performed aerobic cardio nor strength training will work anything but your slow muscles.
Power training, or plyometrics burst types exercises will engage your fast muscles, but still will not affect HGH production to any great degree.
The super-fast muscles, which are ten times faster than slow fibers, are what you use when you do Sprint 8 anaerobic, short burst exercises, and these are the muscle fibers that will affect HGH production.
How to Properly Perform Sprint 8 to Increase Your Growth Hormone Levels
The nice thing about Sprint 8 exercises is that you can perform them with any type of exercise; with or without equipment. So, while having access to a gym or exercise equipment will provide you with a larger variety of options, you don't require either. You can just as easily perform Sprint 8 by walking or running outdoors.
Another benefit is in the time it will save you. Instead of doing an hour-long cardio workout, you'll be done in 20 minutes or so. The actual sprinting totals only 4 minutes!
Keep in mind however that you should only do Sprint 8 exercises two or three times a week.
If you do it more frequently than that, you may actually do more harm than good. Phil Campbell agrees, and also warns against overdoing it. We've found that, more often than not, when people do it more than four times a week they're simply not pushing themselves hard enough.
The key to performing Sprint 8 exercises properly is to raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold. Keep pushing at maximum effort for 20 to 30 seconds, and then rest for 90 seconds.
Repeat this cycle for a total of eight repetitions.
In this video, Phil Campbell and I demonstrate how it's done.
Here's a summary of what a typical Peak Fitness routine might look like using a recumbent bike:
- Warm up for three minutes
- Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should be gasping for breath and feel like you couldn't possibly go on another few seconds
- Recover for 90 seconds, still pedaling, but at slower pace and decreased resistance
- Repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times
Below is a sample chart showing how my heart rate "peaks" eight times during a Peak Fitness session. Also note how my anaerobic threshold rises with each repetition.
You will certainly want to work your way up to this point, but ultimately you want to exercise vigorously enough so you reach your anaerobic threshold as this is where the "magic" happens that will trigger your growth hormone release.
By the end of your 30 second period you will want to reach these markers:
- It will be relatively hard to breathe and talk because you are in oxygen debt
- You will start to sweat profusely. Typically this occurs in the second or third repetition unless you have a thyroid issue and don't sweat much normally.
- Your body temperature will rise
- Lactic acid increases and you will feel a muscle "burn"
Be mindful of your current fitness level and don't overdo it when you first start out. Also keep in mind that there's no "magical" speed here. It's entirely individual, based on your current level of fitness. Some may reach their anabolic threshold by walking at a quick pace, while others may need to perform a mad-dash to get the same effect.
If you are out of shape you may want to start with just two or three repetitions, and work your way up to eight, which is where the magic really starts to happen. If you can do a Sprint 8 workout twice a week, and follow the dietary recommendations I'll go over next, you will increase your production of growth hormone.
The Anti-Aging Health Benefits of Sprint 8 Exercises
Once you regularly participate in these 20 minute exercises about twice a week, most people notice the following benefits:
- Decrease in body fat
- Improved muscle tone
- Firmer skin and reduces wrinkles
- Increase in energy and sexual desire
- Improved athletic speed and performance
- Ability to achieve your fitness goals much faster
Natural Growth Hormone is Far Better than Injectable HGH
Human growth hormone in the form of somatropin was discovered almost 100 years ago, by Dr. Harvey Cushing. Although still popular with some body builders and other athletes, this injectable version has been banned from many professional sports. Some also inject it to promote health and longevity.
I do NOT recommend injecting HGH as I believe the cost and the health risks involved are unjustifiable.
Ideally, you really want your body to produce it naturally, and the way you produce it is by doing Sprint 8-style exercises.
Remember, this high-intensity short-burst form of exercise is the ONLY exercise that will activate your super-fast muscle fibers, which causes HGH to be produced.
Eat Right to Further Optimize Growth Hormone Release
Aside from incorporating Sprint 8 exercises into your fitness regimen, there are a number of additional lifestyle strategies that will further help you optimize your body's HGH production, such as:
- Get a good night's sleep
- Avoid a high fat meal prior to exercising
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat plenty of vegetables and high quality protein
- Optimize your vitamin D levels
- Avoid sugar, especially fructose
The last part is absolutely crucial.
If you consume sugar or fructose, especially within two hours post-exercise, you will increase somatostatin which will in turn obliterate the production of growth hormone!
This is yet another reason to avoid commercial sports drinks, as most of them are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, which will negate many of the benefits from your exercise, including shutting down HGH production.
Sprint 8 is Great, But Don't Shun All Other Approaches...
Although Sprint 8 offers unparalleled health benefits, you still need a comprehensive approach to exercise. Just because Sprint 8 blasts conventional aerobics out of the water does not mean you should abandon all other aerobic activities. It just means you no longer need to focus on time-consuming aerobics.
Ideally you want to have a variety of exercises. By switching it up and avoiding doing the same exercises all the time you will provide your body with the variety of stresses it needs to continuously adapt, improve, and grow stronger.
In addition to Sprint 8, there are three additional types of exercise that will turn your Peak Fitness regimen into a truly comprehensive exercise plan:
- Strength Training: Rounding out your exercise program with a 1-set strength training routine will ensure that you're really optimizing the possible health benefits of a regular exercise program. Do enough repetitions to exhaust your muscles. The weight should be heavy enough that this can be done in fewer than 12 repetitions, yet light enough to do a minimum of four repetitions. It is also important NOT to exercise the same muscle groups every day. They need at least two days of rest to recover, repair and rebuild.
- Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability.
Watch these sample videos for examples of healthy exercise routines you can do with very little equipment and in virtually any location.
- Stretching: My favorite types of stretches are active isolated stretching (AIS) http://www.stretchingusa.com/ developed by Aaron Mattes. It's an amazing way to get flexibility back into your system, and it's completely different from the traditional type of stretching.