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Short bursts of exercise 'boosts health' in older people

Pensioners can dramatically boost their health by doing just one minute of intense exercise twice a week, according to a new study.

Scientists at Abertay University in Dundee found that in just six weeks the physical fitness of older people improved significantly and blood pressure was lowered.

Participants in the study were put through an exercise regime involving two sessions of high-intensity training a week, with six-second sprints on an exercise bike.

It is the first time that the effect of high-intensity training (HIT) on the health of pensioners has been tested, the researchers said.

They believe the regime could provide an alternative to the current exercise guidelines for older people, which many find difficult to meet.

Abertay University

John Babraj

The results are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Study author Dr John Babraj said: “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, which is something they aren’t able to do with current exercise recommendations,” he said.

“As long as you are putting in your maximal effort it will improve your health”

Dr John Babraj

“If people aren’t meeting the targets, we need to find ways to work with them when it comes to exercise, rather than just persisting with something that isn’t working.

“High-intensity training is an achievable alternative that could make a real difference to people’s health and their quality of life,” he said.

“As long as you are putting in your maximal effort – whatever speed that happens to be – it will improve your health,” he added.

Dr Babraj urged people to consult their doctor before starting high-intensity training in case there are any underlying health issues.

Readers' comments (2)

  • "Pensioners can dramatically boost their health by doing just one minute of intense exercise twice a week, according to a new study."

    What has drawing a pension got to do with this study?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • michael stone

    This is good news - as I get older, I'm beginning to suspect that a short burst of activity (something like dragging my ancient body into a vertical position, for example) will be all that I can manage, anyhow.

    But it seems the message is really 'try to take some exercise'. It is a bit like the dietary one - if you weigh far too much, try to eat less.

    Although one of the problems, is that everyone is in a rush these days, trying to fit a lot in: that leads to thinks like driving to somewhere which is a 10 minute walk away, when years ago people would have walked. So now instead of walking, people drive - then, they (well, some do) 'deliberately exercise'. That isn't the whole of the story (there do seem to be emerging themes that very intense activity, is 'really good') but it does seem to be some of it.

    I can remember, when to change TV channels, you had to actually get up and walk to the TV, and push a button (blame these evil remote controls !).

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