The Best Exercise for Seniors is High-Intensity Interval Training, Study Says
A twice-a-week routine of high-intensity interval training shows a marked effect on fitness and overall wellbeing in people over 70, according to a new study.
Regular cardio sessions centered around short bursts of intense workouts, broken up by brief rest periods, can help us stay healthier for longer, according to researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
When the 5 year study began in 2012, researchers called it Generation 100, and randomly divided healthy participants into three different training groups.
One group was assigned to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) using the 4X4 method twice a week—doing 4 minutes of 85-95% maximum heart rate aerobic exercise and 4 minutes of 60% maximum heart rate for 4 rounds. Group two was instructed to train at a steady, moderate intensity for 50 minutes. The participants could choose whether they wanted to train on their own or participate in group training with instructors.
The third group, the control group, was advised to exercise according to the Norwegian health authorities’ recommendations. This group was not offered organized training under the auspices of Generation 100, but was called in for regular health checks and fitness assessments.
“First of all, I have to say that exercise in general seems to be good for the health of the elderly. And our study results show that on top of that, training regularly at high intensity has an extra positive effect,” says Dorthe Stensvold, a professor in the university’s Cardiac Exercise Research Group.
“Both physical and mental quality of life were better in the high-intensity group after five years than in the other two groups. High-intensity interval training also had the greatest positive effect on fitness,” according to Stensvold.
But does this kind of exercise prolong life to a greater extent than moderate exercise?
It would seem so. “In the interval training group, 3% of the participants had died after five years. The percentage was 6% in the moderate group. The difference is not statistically significant, but the trend is so clear that we believe the results give good reason to recommend high-intensity training for the elderly,” Stensvold explains.
The study also found that age has the least effect on fitness level for people who exercise regularly at high intensity. This group had a drop in fitness of 5% over ten years. By comparison, fitness levels dropped by 9% individuals who exercised regularly but not at high intensity. Those who were physically inactive lost as much as 16% of their physical conditioning over ten years.
It sounds like it’s time to practice those jump lunges.