If you don’t get out on your bike quite as much as you’d like, then researchers in the US have some good news, as cycling for just 52 minutes per week could help to slow the ageing process.
In a study of 45 young (18-30 years) and 27 older (65-80 years) people, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that short bursts of high intensity cycling slowed the ageing process within cells by improving the ability of mitochondria to produce energy, therefore preventing frailty. This effect was particularly seen in the older test group.
Of course this doesn’t just mean 57 minutes of any old pedalling, and you have to do some pretty specific interval training to get the desired effect.
The researchers used a form of high intensity interval training, with the study’s participants doing three cycling sessions a week consisting of four sets of four minute intervals at near-maximal effort followed by three minutes of pedalling at no load. This was complemented by two 45 minute walks.
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The high intensity cycling also helped participants in the study to burn more fat, although muscle strength, which also declines with age, was improved more by weight training.
For this reason Dr Sreekumaran Nair, a senior author in the study, said that although high intensity cycling was the best form of exercise, he would recommend a combination of different exercises.
“If people have to pick one exercise, I would recommend high-intensity interval training, but I think it would be more beneficial if they could do three to four days of interval training and then a couple days of strength training.”