High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a concept where one performs a short burst of high-intensity (or max-intensity) exercise followed by a brief low-intensity activity, repeatedly, until too exhausted to continue.

Though there is no universal HIIT session duration, these intense workouts typically last under 30 minutes, with times varying based on a participant’s current fitness level.

One typical example is running sprints, i.e. high-intensity activity, followed by slow jogging or walking, i.e. brief low-intensity activity; then repeating the sequence a number of times.

Read on here to learn whether the seniors should perform high intensity interval training and how should they perform the hiit?

Should Seniors Do high intensity interval training?

The health benefits of exercise are well-known for people of all ages. But until some time back, not much was known about which type of exercise effectively counteracts the aging process in senior citizens.

A new study published in Cell Metabolism by researchers from the Mayo Clinic has found that the high-intensity interval training could be the answer.

It was established that HIIT was most strongly associated with age-reversing changes at the genetic and cellular levels.

The “catch” with HIIT is that it needs a very high exertion level. For older adults it becomes increasingly harder to do hiit as they age. This happens because of their slower recovery and general aches and pains. However at the same time, seniors do require brisk and robust exercise to preserve and gain muscle mass, maintain their bones robust, and to help them with day-to-day routine activities such as to climb stairs, carry groceries or recover and balance when stumbling.

Moreover according to McMaster even with decreasing intensity of your workout, you can still enjoy the same benefits. Thus even if you can’t perform interval training at a very high intensity, you’ll still reap the majority of its benefits.

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Is High Intensity Interval Training Safe For Seniors?

Whether high intensity training is safe for any particular older adult depends on his or her current status of health and physical conditions. Some conditions may enhance the risk of injury. However if an older adult correctly perform HIIT using appropriate high intensity strength training tips and guidelines then it’s safer and perhaps more beneficial than any other activity.

So when a senior perform an exercise properly using a slow, controlled speed of movement over an appropriate range of motion the amount of force the body is exposed to is kept well within safe limits for even frail subjects like as those with extreme osteoporosis.

Most experts agree that many older adults can participate in an age-appropriate high-intensity interval training program that takes into account their physical limitations.

Caution: Older adults are more likely to have an underlying health issue such as osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension or a history heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. So it’s essential for them to consult with their primary care provider and take a cardio-stress test before beginning a new exercise program, especially one that involves vigorous activity.

Read here to learn about best core exercises for older adults

How Should High Intensity Training Be Performed By Seniors?

Broadly same general principles that apply to young adults apply to older adults as well. Whatever your age may be, the basic rule remains the same that everybody should always train as safely as possible. The main difference is that seniors need to be especially careful about which exercises they do and how they perform them.

Read here for Senior Fitness – What And When To Exercise 

Interval Training For Seniors Tips And Guidelines

(i) Begin with just a few basic, multi-joint exercises that engage the major muscle groups. Do only one work set of each exercise per workout. You may find your joints endure certain exercises better after a light warm up set, although for many this is not necessary if proper form is used.

(ii) Use only a light weight at first to perform the exercises. Focus on practicing to move and reverse direction smoothly and breathe steadily.

(iii) Make sure to be conservative with repetition speed. Take at least 3 seconds to lift and 3 seconds to lower the weight. While reversing direction move as smoothly as possible without bouncing, yanking, or jerking the weight. Pause for 1 or 2 seconds in the fully-contracted position. If you’re moving slowly enough 6 to 10 repetitions will take you about fifty to eighty seconds to complete.

(iv) When you are able to do ten or more repetitions of an exercise in good form, the next time when you do the exercise try adding 5 pounds or 5% more weight, whichever is less.

Tip: Generally higher repetition ranges are recommended for seniors, with lighter weight, both for the sake of safety and due to the conversion of type II to type I muscle fibers with age. In my view generally a range of 6 to 10 reps is fine for older adults when performing at a slow speed.

(v) As the exercises become more challenging you’ll begin to experience elevated heart rate and breathing. At first, pause 1 or 2 minutes between exercises so that your heart rate and breathing recover to normal before taking up the next exercise. Over time as your conditioning improves, gradually decrease the gap between exercises to improve the cardiovascular and metabolic effect.

(vi) While learning the exercises during the first few weeks workout not more than thrice a week. If you experience any discomfort then cut back to training only two times in a week. In case your progress slacks down, reduce your frequency further to once weekly. Some people may need more recovery time/less frequent workout. The amount of recovery time needed between workouts increases with age and may vary substantially between individuals.

(vii) While training it is common for your muscles to burn, and for your breathing and heart rate to elevate. But if something aches or if you start to feel giddy, dizzy, nauseous, or faint or think you may be starting to get a headache then halt the exercise immediately and cautiously exit the machine or set down the weight.

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Remember the above are only general guidelines. The specifics may vary considerably between individuals depending on age, genetic and environmental factors, current health condition, etc. The specific exercises and mode of performance that suit you the best can be different than what is right for someone else.

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