Fine lines and wrinkles are an inevitable part of growing older, and while there’s nothing wrong with noticing the dreaded “11s” in the middle of your forehead, it’s natural for many of us to desire a slower progression of the visible signs of aging.
Wrinkles will happen to us all at some point, so they really shouldn’t be feared. However, if they start to crop up earlier than you’d like, they can make you feel and look older than you really are.
With thousands of over-the-counter wrinkle creams, and endless expensive medical procedures like Botox, laser and fillers on offer nowadays, perhaps the most underrated and effective anti-ageing treatment is the easiest of them all: exercise!
What is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?
HIIT workouts are interval workouts that alternate between short bursts of high-intensity activity and periods of low-intensity movement, with the end goal of increasing heart rate to at least 80%.
Exercising this way in moderation is beneficial to a person’s heart, lungs, and mind – but it turns out, this type of training is also an incredibly effective anti-ageing treatment too!
HIIT can encourage cell turnover, provide faster exfoliation, and help support collagen production to replenish a smoother skin texture.
In fact, if you could bottle the effects of HIIT and sell it as a pill, it would be one of the top anti-ageing products on the market.
Best of all, this anti-ageing treatment is free, painless, works for every age and skin type, and comes with a whole host of extra benefits, like increased energy, productivity, and better sleep.
An added benefit of HIIT workouts is that you can do them anywhere – at home, in the gym, or wherever suits you best.
So throw away your fancy creams, cancel your laser treatments and pull out your running shoes instead. The latest anti-ageing phenomenon costs nothing but less than 30 minutes of your time each day.
Sweat Your Way to Better Skin
The health and weight loss potential of HIIT workouts have been studied for years – but scientists recently discovered that not only does HIIT help burn calories and lose weight – it can also reverse signs of aging on a cellular level.
While most exercise is good for our well-being, HIIT appears to have additional cellular benefits. Like intermittent fasting, it can help mobilize and activate genes lying dormant deep within our cells that are able to affect our bodies (and our skin) in incredibly beneficial ways.
So, while 20 minutes of HIIT exercise might sound more intense than walking on the treadmill for an hour – by doing this type of workout you can gain the same benefits as working out moderately for two hours AND reverse age-related decline within your cells.
How HIIT Boosts Skin’s Texture and Quality
According to leading experts on ageing, only 30% – 50% of how we grow older is determined by our genes, with the other 50–70% influenced by the environment and how well we maintain ourselves, i.e. lifestyle factors such as poor diet, excess sun exposure, sleep deprivation, and smoking.
The combination of these two types of ageing results in changes to your skin’s appearance and renewal, resulting in wrinkles and fine lines for some, and seemingly ageless skin for others.
For all of us though, skin renewal slows down as we age because collagen and elastin, which give skin its structure, are reduced. Senescent skin cells (cells that have stopped dividing and growing due to various factors, such as ageing, DNA damage, or stress) can also build up and reduce skin renewal, adding to the degenerative process.
Luckily ageing effects can be slowed or even reversed by making simple lifestyle changes, such as HIIT workouts. High-intensity workouts stimulate growth factors and hormones like human growth hormone (HGH), which activates stem cells and produces more collagen. Increased stem cell activity also results in improved tissue repair and regeneration, which helps to slow down the visible (and internal) signs of ageing.
Ways HIIT can reverse the effects of ageing:
Collagen and Elastin Production
Intense interval training can increase collagen in the skin by stimulating the production of collagen-producing cells called fibroblasts.
The stress placed on the body by exercise triggers the release of growth hormones, including human growth hormone (HGH), which is essential for the production of collagen.
When you do HIIT, you increase your metabolism and oxygen consumption, which stimulates collagen production and gives your skin a younger, plumper, healthier appearance.
During high-intensity exercise, your muscles consume more oxygen than can be supplied by the respiratory and circulatory systems. As a result, the body experiences what is known as an oxygen debt. The body’s metabolism basically remains stimulated after exercise while it works to restore oxygen levels to the muscles and clear lactate produced during the workout.
This leads to something called ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption’ (EPOC), where the body consumes more oxygen after exercise than while resting. HIIT can induce the EPOC state, which also increases collagen synthesis and the production of elastin, an essential protein for skin elasticity and firmness.
As a result, fine lines and wrinkles may appear less prominent and skin tone will appear brighter and more even.
Telomeres are protective caps at the end of our chromosomes, and they shorten each time our cells divide. As we age, they naturally become shorter and this can lead to cellular ageing and ultimately the development of age-related diseases.
Telomere length serves as an important marker of biological ageing – with younger cells having longer telomeres, while older cells have shorter telomeres.
Short telomeres eventually impair the ability of cells to divide properly, causing them to function poorly and eventually die, so they are connected to a higher risk of chronic diseases and a shorter life span overall.
A number of recent studies have shown that high-intensity interval training can activate an enzyme called telomerase, which helps to repair and maintain these precious telomeres and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation – which contribute to telomere shortening.
HIIT workouts can help increase the production of growth hormones, which help repair cells, including those that make up our telomeres.
Boosts hormone production and cleanses pores
Sweating during intense exercise helps to flush impurities from the epidermal layer and clean out the pores, making it great for any type of congested skin.
HIIT helps increase blood flow and circulation too, both of which help to remove toxins from the body and improves skin tissue quality. Consequently, skin cells receive more oxygen and nutrients, promoting higher cell turnover and renewal.
Exercising also regulates hormones such as cortisol (the death hormone) and testosterone, which can cause acne – and can correct any hormonal imbalances that trigger bad outbreaks.
Mitochondria are your cell’s power plants and they are extremely important for optimal cellular function. Sadly they are also highly susceptible to oxidative damage and ageing because their genetic material isn’t protected in the nucleus.
Due to this, as a person ages, mitochondria become damaged and are no longer able to produce enough energy within the cells.
A number of other factors, including stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and environmental factors, can make this rate of damage even worse. But HIIT workouts are able to stimulate mitochondrial formation in cells, helping to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
Which kind of workouts are best for skin maintenance?
HIIT workouts can be structured in a variety of ways to suit your lifestyle and are wonderfully customizable. It doesn’t matter if you prefer lifting weights or running, you can create a high-intensity interval training program that fits how you like to train, helps you stay fit – and look good too!
Most interval training sessions consist of around 30 seconds or one minute of hard work followed by 30 seconds to one minute of rest or low-intensity activity.
An example might be to sprint for 30 seconds and then walk for 60 seconds outside. Or, if you like to exercise in the house, you might do 30 seconds worth of star jumps, or press-ups followed by 60 seconds of more relaxing stretches or rest.
In addition to making your skin glow, HIIT is also great for targeting various muscle groups at the same time and losing weight quickly. In a single workout, you can do all sorts of full-body exercises, or you can use light weights like dumbbells.
In this way, while you are caring for your skin, you can also build muscles in your arms, legs, chest, and back, lose weight and enjoy all the physical and mental benefits exercise provides.
Here are four effective HIIT workouts for skin and good health that you can do anywhere:
- Sprints: Sprints are a classic high-intensity exercise that can be done anywhere. You can incorporate them into your regular running routine or do them on a treadmill. Short, intense bursts of exercise followed by periods of rest help improve circulation and blood flow, which can benefit your skin.
- Plyometrics: Plyometrics are explosive movements like jumping jacks, burpees, and box jumps. These exercises can help stimulate collagen growth, which keeps your skin looking young, plump, toned and healthy.
- Circuit training: Circuit training involves moving from one exercise to another with short rests in between. This type of training can be beneficial for skin health as it increases blood flow and circulation while helping to flush impurities from the skin.
- High-intensity yoga: High-intensity yoga, also known as power yoga, combines strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular exercise. This type of workout is great for skin health, and it also helps reduce stress levels and promotes relaxation, which can reduce the chance of an outbreak of acne.
Other Recommendations for good skin
Beyond incorporating HIIT workouts into your exercise routine, here’s what else you can do to prevent the visible effects of ageing:
Quit Smoking: Smoking can cause the breakdown of collagen and elastin in your skin, leading to premature ageing, wrinkles, and a sallow complexion.
Cut Down on Alcohol: Alcohol can reduce skin elasticity and dehydrate your skin, causing wrinkles, dryness, redness, and dark circles. It can also disturb your sleep. Cutting down on alcohol consumption can help you prevent premature ageing.
Eat a Healthy Diet: A healthy diet is associated with fewer wrinkles and studies have found that a diet rich in red meat and processed snacks cause more wrinkles while eating fruit and vegetables can keep your skin healthy and youthful.
Use Sunscreen: Look for SPF 30 or higher and broad-spectrum protection to shield your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Apply it every day, even when it’s overcast, to protect your skin from sun damage.
Avoid Excess Sun Exposure: Up to 80% of the signs of skin aging are due to UV damage, so while sunlight is necessary for Vitamin D production, too much exposure can significantly accelerate skin ageing. Skip sunbathing, avoid sunbeds and wear protective clothing and sunblock if you spend time outdoors.
Sleep more, scroll less: Avoid doom scrolling before bed as the blue light emitted from your phone can disrupt your sleep cycle and negatively impact skin health. Not to mention those deep neck wrinkles from looking down at a screen for hours on end.
Take Your Vitamins: Vitamins provide many skin benefits. Ginseng and ashwagandha help reduce inflammation and promote collagen production, Aloe vera is known for its hydrating and soothing properties, and kelp extract contains antioxidants and minerals that can nourish and protect the skin, and improve skin elasticity and hydration.