Two minutes exercise a week 'keeps older people fit'

A0KARM close up of mature man and woman joggingPic: Alamy

Health experts have long recommended two and a half hours of moderate exercise to stay fit, but new research claims the over-60s can reduce that to just two minutes, as long as it's the right kind of exercise.

Experts at Abertay University in Dundee suggest two minutes of high-intensity exercise each week could transform the health of mature folk.

The study split the 60 to 73-year-old participants, none of whom had any serious health conditions, into two groups, with one group taking part in two High Intensity Training (HIT) sessions a week, and the remainder acting as a control group.

The HIT sessions involved six-second all-our sprints on an exercise bike, with a minimum of one minute recovery time (until the heart rate dropped to below 120 beats per minute) after each burst of exercise. The number of sprints per session was increased during the six-week trial to a maximum of 10 sets of sprints.

At the end of the trial, the HIT group's blood pressure had been lowered, reducing the chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke, and everyday tasks such as getting up from a chair or walking six metres improved by between 15 and 20 per cent.

Lead researcher Dr John Babraj, whose study was published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, said: "This is the difference of, if someone knocks on the door, how quickly you can answer it. Being able to walk 50 metres is taking the shopping from the bus stop into the house.

"These all significantly improved which, for older people, is really important."

Dr Babraj explained: "When it comes to the sprints, you don't have to go at the speed of someone like Usain Bolt. As long as you are putting in your maximal effort, whatever speed that happens to be, it will improve your health."

However, he added: "As with any type of exercise, it is important to consult with your doctor before you begin doing HIT in case there are any underlying health issues."

What do you think? Would you prefer two minutes of high-intensity exercise each week, or two and a half hours of moderate activity? Leave your comments below...
An Exercise Routine for the Over 60s Part 1