Another group began to exercise moderately twice a week for longer sessions of 50 minutes. And the third group started bi-weekly high-intensity interval training (HIIT), where they cycled or jogged at a strenuous pace for four minutes, followed by a four-minute break, repeating this sequence four times.
Almost everyone kept their assigned exercise routines for five years, an eternity in science, and returned regularly to the lab for check-in, testing, and supervised group training. During this time, the researchers found that some of the control subjects had taken interval training classes at local gyms on their own initiative and apparently for fun. The other groups haven’t changed their routines.
After five years, the researchers checked the death records and found that about 4.6 percent of all original volunteers had died during the study, a lower number than in the broader Norwegian population of 70-year-olds, suggesting that they are active older people acted by and large live longer than others their age.
But they also found interesting, albeit minor, differences between the groups. The men and women in the group with high intensity intervals were 2 percent less likely to die than in the control group and 3 percent less than those in the group with longer, moderate exercise. In fact, people in the moderate group were more likely to die than people in the control group.
The men and women in the interval group were also now fit and reported greater improvements in their quality of life than the other volunteers.
According to Dorthe Stensvold, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology who led the new study, intense exercise – which was part of the routine of both the interval and control groups – offered slightly better protection against premature death than moderate exercise alone .
Of course, exercise isn’t a panacea, she adds. Some people are still sick and died regardless of their exercise program. (Nobody died while exercising.) This study also focused on Norwegians, who tend to be supernaturally healthy, and most of us, regrettably, may not be Norwegians. We may not be in our 70s either.
Dr. However, Stensvold believes that the study’s message can be broadly applicable to almost all of us. “We should try to do some high-intensity exercise,” she says. “Intervals are safe and doable for most people. Adding life to years, not just years, is an important aspect of healthy aging, and the higher fitness and health-related quality of life from HIIT in this study is an important finding. “