Sprinting is officially on the map. The Commonwealth Games concluded this week with the 100metre sprint, England’s Adam Gemili taking his first senior international medal. The 20-year-old burst down the track, in front of 44,000 fans at Hampden Park, in a cool 10.10 seconds. Sprinting, the most anticipated event of every athletics competition, is admired all over the world, although few people participate in sprinting themselves. Following over from Glasgow, researchers from Scotland say the short burst of power, found in a sprinters race, has the potential to transform the health of the elderly.
The study, involving 12 pensioners, showed that exercising by going all-out in very short bursts reduced blood pressure and improved general fitness over time. Short six-second bursts of vigorous exercise, in the form of running, cycling and rowing, proved the most effective. The study is very similar to the principles of HIT training (High Intensity Training), which has become an increasingly popular method of training in the health and fitness industry.
HIT training is simple: Push yourself to your limits for a short period of time. The method was created by Arthur Jones in the 1970s and is now seen in all types of exercise, from running to weight training and swimming. This research was the first trial to look into the effect of HIT training in the elderly.
Twelve pensioners came into the lab twice a week for six weeks and exerted as much force as they could on an exercise bike for six seconds. They would allow their heart rate to recover before repeating, eventually building up to one minute of exercise by the end of the trial.
In conclusion, the study group reduced their blood pressure by 9%, increased their ability to get oxygen to their muscles and found day-to-day activities like getting out of a chair or walking the dog much easier.
HIT training lasts for a much shorter period than that of long distance jogging, cycling or walking. It is possible to achieve the same health benefits from an hour’s low intensity exercise with 10 minutes of HIT training. Lead author, Dr John Babraj believes this is why the study could serve such significance.
He said: “People should see their doctor first to ensure they are in good health and then they can just go from there. The easiest way to do it yourself is to run up a hill, the steeper the hill, the harder it’s going to be, give it everything you’ve got for six seconds.”
Dr Adam Gordon, a consultant and honorary secretary of the British Geriatrics Society, added: “This is a brilliant, fantastic piece of work challenging assumptions about what the right type of exercise is in ageing individuals.”
HIT training is very physically demanding and it is best to check with a doctor that the type of exercise fits your general health and lifestyle first. With the commonwealth games coming to a close, perhaps it is time to test out your 100m sprint time. Anything between 12-14 seconds is a great time for an amateur athlete, so get out there and give Adam Gemili a run for his money.
What type of exercise do you find the most effective?