The Benefits of Exercising 6 Seconds at a Time

High-intensity bursts may pay off for seniors, study says

By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 29, 2014 2:42 PM CDT | Updated Aug 2, 2014 4:16 PM CDT

(Newser) – Not feeling up for a half-hour on the bike? Can't find the time to jog or walk a few miles? Good news out of Abertay University in Scotland, where researchers put 12 retired people to the test. Coming in twice a week for six weeks, the volunteers, all over age 60, were instructed to bike for 6-second bursts of high intensity on an exercise bike, then rest for at least one minute. The bursts gradually increased until, by the end of the trial, they were doing 10 of them per session, for a full minute of total exercise, reports the Daily Mail. The result? A 9% reduction in blood pressure, an increased ability to get oxygen to their muscles, and an easier go at day-to-day activities like walking the dog, the BBC reports.

"The broad message is that you're never too old, too frail, too ill to benefit from exercise, as long as it's carefully chosen," the honorary secretary of the British Geriatrics Society says, adding that he'd like to see the research done on people in their 80s and 90s. The researchers say that this is the first time this type of high-intensity training has been studied in seniors, and they're already planning larger trials. Perhaps counterintuitively, these bursts of effort could be safer for the heart than a reduced yet prolonged strain, one researcher explains. (Meanwhile, check out how running for just minutes a day might help, too.)

A cardiac patient rides an exercise bike at the Cleveland Clinic in this file photo.
A cardiac patient rides an exercise bike at the Cleveland Clinic in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
A woman is seen on a piece of fitness machinery in a play area for older people at Dam Head Park in Manchester, England.
A woman is seen on a piece of fitness machinery in a play area for older people at Dam Head Park in Manchester, England.   (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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