TRONDHEIM, Norway — There’s a common thought that older adults should “take it easy” when it comes to intense exercise. However, a study finds seniors who want to push harder during their workouts don’t increase their risk of death. According to research on Norwegian adults in their 70s, exercise intensity does not make a difference when it comes to mortality risk during old age.
A team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology says, until now, there haven’t been many high-quality studies linking physical activity levels with early death.
Their study examined 1,567 participants (790 women and 777 men) with an average age of 73. Researchers evaluated the impact of five years of supervised exercise, comparing the results to typical recommendations for exercise among older adults.
A quarter of the group (400) participated in two weekly sessions of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Another 387 participants engaged in moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT). The remaining 780 seniors followed Norwegian health guidelines for physical activity, serving as the control group.
The vast majority (87.5%) of the participants were in good overall health at the start of the study. Four in five reported their physical activity levels as medium or high.
Harder workouts won’t lead to more stressful workouts
Following the five-year study, the overall mortality rate was 4.6 percent, with 72 participants passing away. However, results reveal no significant difference in mortality between the control group (4.7%) and the combined HIIT and MICT groups (4.5%).
The team also finds seniors engaging in more intense exercise programs don’t have higher rates of cardiovascular disease or cancer. In fact, heart disease rates among seniors in the control group were slightly higher than the HIIT and MICT groups.
“This study suggests that combined MICT and HIIT has no effect on all cause mortality compared with recommended physical activity levels,” researchers write in a media release.
The study did have a few restrictions. Study authors say highly active adults in the control group may have made the two groups seem more similar than they really are. Also, researchers did not anticipate the seniors to be as healthy as they were at the study’s start.