Aim: Metabolic health may deteriorate with age as a result of altered body composition and decreased physical activity. Endurance exercise is known to counter these changes delaying or even preventing onset of metabolic diseases. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a time efficient alternative to regular endurance exercise, and the aim of this study was to investigate the metabolic benefit of HIIT in older subjects.
Methods: Twenty-two sedentary male (n = 11) and female (n = 11) subjects aged 63 ± 1 years performed HIIT training three times/week for 6 weeks on a bicycle ergometer. Each HIIT session consisted of five 1-minute intervals interspersed with 1½-minute rest. Prior to the first and after the last HIIT session whole-body insulin sensitivity, measured by a hyperinsulinaemic-euglycaemic clamp, plasma lipid levels, HbA1c, glycaemic parameters, body composition and maximal oxygen uptake were assessed. Muscle biopsies were obtained wherefrom content of glycogen and proteins involved in muscle glucose handling were determined.
Results: Insulin sensitivity (P = .011) and maximal oxygen uptake increased (P < .05) in both genders, while plasma cholesterol (P < .05), low-density lipoprotein (P < .05), visceral fat mass (P < .05) and per cent body fat (P < .05) decreased after 6 weeks of HIIT. HbA1c decreased only in males (P = .001). Muscle glycogen content increased in both genders (P = .001) and in line GLUT4 (P < .05), glycogen synthase (P = .001) and hexokinase II (P < .05) content all increased.
Conclusion: Six weeks of HIIT significantly improves metabolic health in older males and females by reducing age-related risk factors for cardiometabolic disease.
Keywords: ageing; body composition; glucose metabolism; high-intensity interval training; insulin sensitivity; skeletal muscle.
© 2017 Scandinavian Physiological Society. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.