Making older adults exercise and keeping them in exercise programs is a major challenge. Understanding how older adults prefer to exercise may help developing tailored exercise programs and increase sustained exercise participation in ageing populations. We aimed to describe exercise patterns, including frequency, intensity, type, location and social setting of exercise, in older adults instructed to follow continuous moderate-intensity training (MCT) or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) over a one-year period.
Frequency, intensity, type, location and social setting (alone vs. together with others) of exercise were assessed using exercise logs from 618 older adults (aged 70-77 years) randomized to MCT or HIIT. All participants completed exercise logs after each exercise session they performed during one year. Pearson Chi-square tests were run to assess the association between intensity, type, location and social setting of exercise with training group.
Both groups performed 2.2 ± 1.3 exercise sessions per week during the year. Walking was the most common exercise type in both groups, but MCT had a higher proportion of walking sessions than HIIT (54.2% vs. 41.1%, p < 0.01). Compared to MCT, HIIT had a higher proportion of sessions with cycling (14.2% vs. 9.8%, p < 0.01), combined endurance and resistance training (10.3% vs. 7.5%, p < 0.01), jogging (6.5% vs. 3.2%, p < 0.01) and swimming (2.6% vs. 1.7%, p < 0.01). Outdoors was the most common exercise location in both training groups (67.8 and 59.1% of all sessions in MCT and HIIT, respectively). Compared to MCT, HIIT had a higher proportion of sessions at a gym (21.4% vs. 17.5%, p < 0.01) and sports facility (9.8% vs. 7.6%, p < 0.01). Both groups performed an equal amount of sessions alone and together with others, but women had a higher proportion of sessions together with others compared to men (56% vs. 44%, p < 0.01).
This is the first study that has followed older adults instructed to perform MCT or HIIT over a one-year period, collected data from each exercise session they performed and provided important knowledge about their exercise patterns. This novel information may help researchers and clinicians to develop tailored exercise programs in an ageing population.