Scientists at Abertay University, in Dundee, found that in just six weeks the physical fitness of older people improved significantly and blood pressure was lowered.
Participants in the study were put through an exercise regime involving two sessions of high-intensity training a week, with six-second sprints on an exercise bike.
It is the first time that the effect of high-intensity training (HIT) on the health of pensioners has been tested, the researchers said.
They believe the regime could provide an alternative to the current exercise guidelines for older people, which many find difficult to meet.
The university's Dr John Babraj said: "What we found with this study - which involves doing just one minute of exercise twice a week - is that it not only improved the participants' physical health and ability to do these things, but also their perceptions of their own ability to engage in physical activity.
"They enjoyed it, were delighted with the effects it had on their health and, on top of that, felt they could fit it into their lives, which is something they aren't able to do with current exercise recommendations.
"High-intensity training is an achievable alternative that could make a real difference to people's health and their quality of life.
"When it comes to the sprints, you don't have to go at the speed of Usain Bolt.
"As long as you are putting in your maximal effort -whatever speed that happens to be - it will improve your health."
However, Dr Babraj said people should consult their doctor before starting any high-intensity training in case there are any underlying health issues which need to be identified.