The magic pill: just a minute of weekly exercise provides health benefits to the elderly
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The magic pill: just a minute of weekly exercise provides health benefits to the elderly

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While those participating in the twice-weekly sessions observed a greater improvement, those taking part in the single session also observed change
– John Babraj

A single minute of exercise per week is enough to provide health benefits to people over the age of 65.

A team of researchers at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland, studied a group of 65 to 75-year-olds who participated in either once or twice weekly training sessions for a period of eight weeks.

Each had been living a sedentary lifestyle and had not been taking part in regular exercise.

The participants took to stationary bikes and were asked to cycle as hard as they were able to for six seconds before resting for at least a minute.

They would repeat the process – which is known as sprint interval training (SIT) – until they had exercised for a total of one minute.

In controlled testing, the team found that the once-weekly session was enough to produce improvements in blood glucose control and general mobility.

The results could be significant, because as people age, they lose the ability to take glucose out of their blood which results in insulin resistance. This can lead to Type 2 Diabetes, and problems with the heart and liver.

Dr John Babraj, who led the study, said: “We’ve found that SIT, whether it’s done once a week or twice a week, improves the ability to get glucose out of the system.

“While those participating in the twice-weekly sessions observed a greater improvement, those taking part in the single session also observed change.

“Importantly, they also observed a difference in general function, greatly improving their ability to do everyday tasks such as getting up to answer a door and walk up and down stairs.

“These are major issues for older people. As we lose physical function, we start to become socially isolated, and as we become socially isolated our quality of life declines significantly.”

As a result of the study – titled The Impact of Sprint Interval Training Frequency on Blood Glucose Control and Physical Function of Older Adults – Dr Babraj is now calling for sprint interval training to be introduced to the government’s physical activity guidelines.

“Currently, older adults are advised to participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, and that can be difficult to accrue," he added.

“Both of our groups produced greater adaptations than what we would expect the smallest worthwhile change to be.

“Our results provide further support for the inclusion of this form of training in the guidelines as one of the methods to gain health benefits.”

To download and read the study in full, click here.

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A single minute of exercise per week is enough to provide health benefits to people over the age of 65.
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