With physical activity shown to improve our ability to perform daily tasks and positively impact a wide range of health outcomes, like cardiovascular disease, dementia and diabetes, the benefits of exercise even in later life are significant. However, with older people struggling to find the time to get active, researchers at the University of Abertay in Dundee have identified a way that could help you get fit in matter of seconds.
The Scottish Government’s Health Survey reveals that the majority of the older population don’t exercise regularly, with only one in twenty of those aged 75 and over (5 per cent) meeting physical activity and muscle strengthening exercise recommendations, rising to just 16 per cent among 55-64 year olds.
With many older people juggling the demands of caring, volunteering, looking after grandchildren or just enjoying retirement, time has consistently been reported as one of the major barriers to getting active.
With this in mind, academics at Abertay University have been developing an exercise routine that is time efficient and can be used by older people. It involves cycling on an exercise bicycle against a set resistance as hard as you can for 6 seconds, followed by a period of recovery. The rest period is determined by the time taken for your heart rate to return to below 120 beats per minute.
This would be repeated for a maximum of 10 times in a session, with training sessions taking place twice weekly. This meant that in the studies involving older adults, participants were in training for a maximum of 15 minutes with only 60 seconds of that time being spent in activity.
Incredibly, participants in the research saw their physical capacity improve by 20 per cent in just 6 weeks and reported feeling more physically capable of doing things they previously found daunting. After 8 weeks, they had drastically reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes and over 10 weeks, there were dramatic improvements in cardiovascular health, with an 8 per cent reduction in hypertension.
Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Project, funded by the Life Changes Trust, has a core function of advancing the public understanding of healthy living, both in reducing the risk of developing dementia but also in delaying its onset.
Greg McCracken, Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Team Leader & Policy Officer, said “If we are to encourage older people to reap the benefits of physical activity we need to develop solutions that reflect the reality of older people’s busy lives.
“The research from Abertay University into high intensity training shows that significant benefits can be reaped from surprisingly short periods of activity. People should consult their GP before beginning a new exercise routine, but it will be reassuring for many that a mere 2 minutes of intermittent exercise per week, performed at maximum effort, has the ability to dramatically improve their health and wellbeing.”