Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport
We found that the REHIT routine was effective at improving the general health of the research participants. VO2max increased by around 10 percent, compared to the control group, which equates to a risk reduction for getting heart disease in later life of 15 percent.
Twenty-five previously inactive office employees from local authority offices in Stirling and Swansea were recruited for the research. Thirteen of the volunteers were allocated to the exercise group, while the others formed the control group, who continued with their regular lifestyle.
The research used CAR.O.L bikes, which differ to regular gym bikes by enabling users to reach their own maximum exercise intensity for very short durations. They were set up in the workplace, out of view from colleagues, and participants completed two sessions a week for six weeks. Each session lasted for 8 minutes and 40 seconds and combined easy pedalling with two short bursts of high-intensity cycling.
Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) – a measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilise during intense exercise – was recorded at the beginning and at the end of the six weeks. Importantly, VO2max is the best measures of a person’s general health and their future risk of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes. The team also collected information on the volunteers’ thoughts and feelings towards the exercise routine.
“We found that the REHIT routine was effective at improving the general health of the research participants,” Dr Vollaard explained. “VO2max increased by around 10 percent, compared to the control group, which equates to a risk reduction for getting heart disease in later life of 15 percent.
“Based on previous research, we would expect that continuing with the REHIT routine would improve VO2max further – again, further reducing the risk of heart disease.
“We also found that participants considered the routine achievable, acceptable and enjoyable.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the research team acknowledge that employers may be reluctant to introduce workplace exercise in the immediate future – and any move to do so would have to meet hygiene and social distancing guidance. However, they believe their findings provide an important insight into the possibilities that could be considered as workplaces return to ‘normal’.
The paper, Time-efficient and computer-guided sprint interval exercise training for improving health in the workplace: a randomised mixed-methods feasibility study in office-based employees, is published in BMC Public Health.