Through our research supervisor, Dr. Greg Wells at the University of Toronto, we were offered an amazing opportunity to read and disseminate knowledge on high intensity exercise to the general public – specifically for those entering middle or old age. We write for Virginia Davies, a retired lawyer who has developed a passion for high intensity exercise. Her website, ‘Fast Twitch Grandma’ is aimed to spark conversation about the importance of training and high intensity exercise in the aging population. She sent us across the pond to meet some of the leading researchers in the field in order to pick their brains, find out what they are doing, and discuss where they see the research going in the coming years.
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Meeting with Dorthe Stensvold, the leading researcher involved in the Generation 100 Study at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim Norway, was one of the highlights. She took time out of her very busy day (they are starting their three year follow-up of the study!) to tell us all about the research and show us some of the exercise testing! We had been looking forward to visiting this group for our whole trip. Being the largest long-term study on high intensity interval training in the aging population, we couldn’t wait to see what was going on there.
The Generation 100 Study is a 5-year project looking at the long-term health and fitness benefits of high-intensity versus endurance exercise. Participants are split into two training groups – a moderate-intensity walking group and a group that performs high-intensity hill workouts twice a week. The kicker: they’re all in their 70’s!
We had the incredible opportunity of witnessing these workouts. Getting to see the group running up the hills was absolutely inspiring. When we showed up to the picturesque setting just outside of Trondheim, everyone was smiling and chatting – you could tell they were really excited to be there! We saw first-hand how the exercise was impacting the participants in a meaningful way. They weren’t just improving their fitness and physical function, they were bonding and making lasting friendships. After the exercise many of them sat down to have coffee together. This is one of the big take-away messages from our day in Trondheim – the social aspect of training is hugely important to motivation. If you could meet with your friends twice a week to exercise in a beautiful setting, wouldn’t you do it? This day was definitely the highlight of our trip. Everyone we met was so friendly and inviting and we can’t wait to take another trip to Trondheim!
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Sara Thompson and Fiona Callender,