Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficiency of a short-term Intermittent Work Exercise Program (IWEP) among healthy elderly subjects.
Study design and setting: This longitudinal prospective study took place at the Strasbourg University Hospital geriatric department.
Study participants: One hundred and fifty older volunteers, previously determined as being free from cardiac and pulmonary disease, were separated into two age groups: the "young senior" (60.2 ± 3.1 yr) and the "older senior" groups (70.8 ± 5.2 yr). These groups were then subdivided by gender into the "young female senior", "young male senior" "older female senior" and "older male senior" groups.
Intervention: Before and after the IWEP, all subjects were asked to perform an incremental cycle exercise to obtain their first ventilatory threshold (VT1), maximal tolerated power (MTP), peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) and maximal minute ventilation (MMV). The IWEP consisted of a 30-min cycling exercise which took place twice a week, and was divided into six 5-min stages consisting of 4 min at VT1 intensity and 1 min at 90% MTP.
Measurements: An assessment was made of the effects of the IWEP on maximal cardio-respiratory function (MTP, VO2peak, MMV) and endurance parameters (VT1, heart rate [HR] measured at pretraining VT1 and lactate concentrations at pre-training MTP).
Results: This short-term training program resulted in a significant increase of MTP (from 13.2% to 20.6%), VO2peak (from 8.9% to 16.6%) and MMV (from 11.1% to 21.8%) in all groups (p<0.05). VT1 improved from 21% at pretraining to 27%, while HR at pre-training VT1 as well as lactate concentrations at pre-training MTP decreased significantly in all groups (p<0.05). The post-training values for VO2peak and MMV of the "older seniors" were not significantly different (p>0.05) from the "young seniors" pre-training values for the same parameters.
Conclusion: The most striking finding in this study is that after only 9 weeks, our short-term "individually-tailored" IWEP significantly improved both maximal cardio-respiratory function and endurance parameters in healthy, previously untrained seniors.