New research published in the American Journal of Physiology—Heart and Circulatory Physiology suggests that increasingly popular interval exercise training could be used to improve blood vessel function in aging adults. According to the study, resistance-based interval training can improve endothelial function altogether, which includes blood flow and blood vessel dilation in three types of older adults.
In Brief: Endothelial Dysfunction Connected to Chronic Diseases
According to the researchers, “The endothelium plays a pivotal role regulating the many factors that determine vascular tone, tissue perfusion, coagulation and inflammation. Endothelial dysfunction is an early manifestation in many chronic diseases, including diabetes, and contributes to the [approximately two- to four-fold] greater risk of cardiovascular disease in type 2 diabetes.” There are approximately 28 million people in the U.S. with type 2 diabetes, and endothelial problems can impair blood circulation and eventually cause nerve damage, among other complications.
How does interval training work to improve endothelial function? First, it alternates periods of high- and low-intensity exercise, which many people find appealing because it requires little time commitment and includes rest periods.
Researchers compared resistance exercises using weighted leg resistance, and cardio using stationary bicycles, to see what effect it had on endothelial function. The study invited 35 volunteers around the age of 56, and separated them into three groups: those with type 2 diabetes (T2D), non-exercisers without diabetes (UN-NG), and regular exercisers (TR-NG) with diabetes. All groups performed the same 20-minute workout routine, and the researchers measured and recorded their blood flow before and after the training and at one and two hours after the exercise.
All of the exercisers saw an improvement of flow-mediated dilation after the interval training. The results were significant in the T2D group. “This study shows that resistance-based interval exercise is a time-efficient and effective exercise method to acutely improve endothelial function in T2D, age-matched UN-NG and TR-NG participants,” according to the researchers. Researchers still need to examine the long-term impact of interval training on vascular function.