PENSIONERS inspired by the gold-winning efforts of athletes at Glasgow 2014 can take heart from a new study which claims older people can dramatically boost their health by doing just one minute of intense exercise twice a week.
Scientists at Abertay University in Dundee, who conducted the first high-intensity training (HIT) study of pensioners, found that in just six weeks physical fitness improved significantly and blood pressure was lowered.
Participants in the study were put through an exercise regime involving two HIT sessions a week, with six-second sprints on an exercise bike.
Researchers found those taking part not only significantly increased their physical fitness and functional ability for actions such as getting out of a chair or carrying shopping, but had also significantly reduced blood pressure – which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
They believe the regime could provide an alternative to the current older people’s exercise guidelines consisting of performing moderate to vigorous physical exercise such as fast walking or running several days a week, which many find difficult to meet.
In the study, participants were divided into two groups, with one acting as a control and the other required to take part in two sessions of high-intensity training per week.
Each session consisted of six-second all-out sprints on an exercise bike, with participants fitted with a heart rate monitor throughout. The number of sprints in each session was progressively increased over the course of the trial from six six-second sprints to ten.
A minimum of one minute recovery time was allowed between each sprint, and participants were not allowed to start sprinting again until their heart rate had gone back down to below 120bpm.
Dr John Babraj, lecturer in exercise physiology at the university’s school of social and health sciences, said the study also changed participants’ self-image.
“What we found with this study – which involves doing just one minute of exercise twice a week – is that it not only improved the participants’ physical health and ability to do these things, but also their perceptions of their own ability to engage in physical activity. They enjoyed it, were delighted with the effects it had on their health and, on top of that, felt they could fit it into their lives.”
Dr Babraj added: “High- intensity training is an achievable alternative that could make a real difference to people’s health and their quality of life.”
He urged people to consult their doctor before starting high-intensity training in case of any underlying health issues.
A spokesman for Age Scotland gave a cautious welcome, saying : “We may need to understand more about the risks.”