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Study Finds High-Intensity Interval Training Benefits Older Adults

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts generally combine short bursts of intense exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. A recent study suggests that HIIT may help improve quality of life and fitness for mature adults, as well as extend lifespan.

Participants included 1,567 adults with an average age of 72.8. They participated in one of three different exercise groups twice weekly for 5 years:

  1. HIIT at approximately 90% of peak heart rate;
  2. Moderate intensity continuous training (MICT) at approximately 70% of peak heart rate;
  3. Exercise according to national guidelines for physical activity (control group).

The researchers measured peak oxygen uptake at baseline, year 1, year 3, and year 5. A questionnaire was administered to evaluate quality of life at year 1, year 3, and year 5. All incidences of cardiovascular disease and mortality were recorded.

Participants in the HIIT group had 1.7% reduction in all-cause mortality risk compared to participants in the control group, and a 2.9% reduction in all-cause mortality risk compared to the MICT group. Participants in the HIIT had better quality of life and fitness scores compared to the other two groups. Fitness levels in the HIIT group decreased by 5%, compared to a 9% decrease in the other two groups, and a 16% decrease in physically inactive participants. No differences were seen in peak oxygen uptake levels.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. It was published online ahead of print on October 7, 2020 in the journal BMJ.

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