Brief bursts of high-intensity exercise on a stationary bike has been found to bring blood pressure back to normal in older adults. Researchers say it may be time to rethink standard exercise advice for this age group.

Participants in their 60s with diagnosed hypertension underwent sprint interval training twice a week: six-seconds of high-intensity cycling, broken by short periods of rest, for up to 12 minutes in duration.

These brief, biweekly sessions apparently had a huge effect on resting blood pressure. By week 10 it had fallen to normal levels in the training participants – all of whom were on blood pressure medication. This happened without changes to medication or diet, reported the researchers, from Abertay University, Scotland.

In light of these results, and with a call for further study, lead author John Babraj, Ph.D., suggested that standard exercise prescriptions may need to be re-evaluated.

“Given that…time and dislike of traditional exercise are barriers to participation, then there is a need to reappraise current exercise advice for older adults to do 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week,” Babraj concluded.

Participants were also found to have significant improvements in vascular and physical function and these improvements were strongly correlated to the improvements in pulse pressure (R = 0.55). This may reflect healthier arterial function, a sign of improved cardiovascular health, the researchers wrote.

The study appears in the journal Sport Sciences for Health.