Recently, a study made by a team of researchers from the Abertay University in Scotland suggest that short six-second bursts of exercise can actually improve the health of elderly individuals.
A study was conducted on 12 pensioners in an effort to avert the extremely high costs of health care for the elderly. These individuals underwent High Intensity Training (HIT), which is essentially a type of exercise that pushes you to your limits for a very short period of time instead of working out for an hour or two at a time.
The participants came into the University’s laboratory two times a week for a period of 6 weeks and exercised vigorously for 6 seconds at a time. Once their heart rate went up, they were required to rest and recover and then bike vigorously again. By the end of the trial period, they could build up the workout for up to 1 minute.
The results of this study were very positive. As published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, it was found that these elderly individuals had a 9% reduction in blood pressure. Their bodies were also able to transport oxygen to their muscles properly and were able to do day to day activities like walking their dogs or getting out of a chair more easily.
One of the researchers, Dr. John Babraj, said that diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are brought about by sedentary lifestyles. If people were to stay active and function properly, they would reduce their risk of acquiring such medical conditions.
Among the reasons why people have poor health is because they struggle to exercise due to their schedule. But now with the advent of High Intensity Training they can easily fit exercise into their schedule. HIT can be done at home as well.
People can try running up a hill, which is a great HIT. The steeper it is, the better because it requires more effort on your body. Try to keep it at 6 seconds and gradually increase over time.
Safety Issues of HIT
Critics have voiced out their concerns regarding the safety of HIT. But medical science have seen evidence that short and strenuous exercise may be a lot safer for people than conventional workouts. With long workouts, the heart rate stays high for a longer period and so will the person’s blood pressure. This could be a trigger for stroke and heart attacks. Experts say that running for 15 miles can put a great strain on the heart hence the occurrence of deaths in half marathons and marathons.
However, it’s imperative that before engaging in any exercise program, you should consult your doctor. This is particularly important for elderly individuals and those who are overweight. Your doctor can assess your physical fitness and determine whether exercising is safe for you.
Right now, researchers are planning larger trials so that HIT for elderly can be evaluated even further. But the general message of the findings made by the Scotland researchers is that you’re never too old, too sick or too frail to exercise. If your workout is carefully chosen based on your condition, age and health, it will be beneficial to you.
What is the Best Exercise for You?
There are many exercises you can engage in. Many people start with cardio workouts. If you’re a complete newbie (couch potato) you can always try brisk walking for a while just to build up endurance and strength in your muscles. Once you have gotten used to brisk walking, you can try walking up hills. As mentioned earlier, the steeper the hills the better.
Gradually build stamina and try running hills in short, quick bursts. So, warm up by doing brisk walking for 10 minutes and then run up the hill for 6 seconds and walk back down. Do another 6-second run and walk back down. Repeat this 4x and gradually increase your repetitions every week or two. Doing this workout twice a week is recommended.
Spinning which is offered in most gyms also enables you to do High Intensity Training. Warm up for a few minutes doing slow spins until your muscles are ready for a harder workout. Then, do a hard spin for 6 seconds and recover. Repeat this a few times and gradually increase your reps and duration for HIT over time.
As mentioned above, it’s important that you consult your doctor first before trying any exercise program to ensure that it is suitable for your current condition.