Exploring the possible benefits of ‘exercise snacking’ for older adults

Can 10 minutes of muscle strengthening exercises twice a day help reduce loss of muscle strength in older adults?

Dr Jackson Fyfe is aiming to find out whether the concept of ‘exercise snacking’ – brief but regular sessions of simple bodyweight muscle strengthening exercises – can reduce losses of muscle strength and functional ability after two weeks of reduced physical activity in older adults.

Funded through a Dean’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Dr Fyfe hopes this initial study will show the potential benefits of this type of pragmatic ‘exercise snacking’ approach in the context of reduced activity in older adults.

To do this, Dr Fyfe will ask older adults living in the community to limit their activity levels to less than 1500 steps per day for two weeks. One group will perform regular 10-minute ‘exercise snacks’, while another group will not perform any exercise.

“Each ‘exercise snack’ will consist of five simple, bodyweight muscle strengthening exercises (such as chair squats, lunges, and calf raises) performed twice a day,” Dr Fyfe explained.

Participants will have their body composition, muscle strength, and functional ability measured, as well as perceptions of quality of life and symptoms of anxiety/depression before and after this two-week period.

Each group will then perform an identical ‘exercise snacking’ program for four weeks to restore any potential losses experienced during the reduced activity period.

“The next steps will be to extend the work to other settings associated with short periods of reduced activity in older adults, such as hospitalisation, which are associated with losses of muscle strength and functional ability, to see if it can improve patient outcomes,” he said.

“We also believe the benefits of ‘exercise snacking’ could extend to many other situations and populations – such as to improve glycaemic control in those at risk of or with type 2 diabetes – so future work will aim to explore these areas as well.”