You must be often hearing about HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Are you curious to know why HIIT has taken the fitness industry by storm in recent years? Read on here to find (i) What HIIT is? (ii) Benefits of HIIT for older adults (iii) Four ideal HIIT exercises for older adults.
What Is HIIT?
HIIT is a method of workout that involves short bursts of very intense activity (such as fast running), interspersed with recovery of lower-intensity exercise periods (such as walking). In other words, during a HIIT workout you alternate between exerting high and low level efforts of exercises. The total period may last just 5-30 minutes, depending upon your physical conditions such as stamina and endurance.
High Intensity Training For Older Adults
Regular HIIT seems to be the best workout at any age. It is not just great for the young and healthy, but the researchers have found that HIIT can improve health and fitness for just about everyone and has been shown to be even providing greater benefits to seniors.
Great For Protecting Cells From Aging
Regular high intensity interval training (HIIT) has been found to be good for reversing the declining ability of our cells to generate energy.
A study was conducted at Mayo Clinic to examine the effects of HIIT on people above age 65. What it revealed may surprise you: Some age-related deterioration of muscle cells had actually been reversed.
HIIT was found to alter a cell’s DNA in such a manner that enhanced the muscle’s ability to generate energy. It also instigated the growth of new muscles, helping offset the otherwise imminent muscle loss that comes with aging.
These changes were more intense in the over-65 exercisers compared with a group of people under age 30 who did the same workouts. The possible conclusion: It’s never too late to start and see big gains.
Moreover, this method of training has been shown to provide superior results compared to the usual steady-state cardio workout. In fact, researchers at McMaster University reported that just 1 minute of workout, performed in a HIIT manner, gives the same benefits as 45 minutes of moderate cardio. In other words, even if you can’t perform interval training at a very high intensity for a long period, you’ll still reap the majority of its benefits.
Seniors Can Do HIIT But There Is A Catch!
HIIT involves a very high exertion level. It gets increasingly difficult to do, as you grow old because of slower recovery, reduced stamina & endurance and general pains.
But then on the other hand, the seniors require harder workout to maintain muscle mass, increase endurance, keep their bones healthy so as to help them perform day-to-day activities such as climbing stairs or recovering when stumbling.
Where There Is A Will, There Is Way!
It’s not as hard as many older adults think. There are some HIIT exercises for which you don’t require special training or equipment.
In one study, walkers who added running or jogging intervals to their walking sessions improved their aerobic fitness, leg strength and blood pressure significantly. They achieved it by just alternating between three minutes of jogging/running (or even fast walking) and three minutes of slow walking for a total duration of 30 minutes or more 3-4 times a week. And the participants who walked twice as long but at a moderate, steady speed made minimal gains in aerobic fitness or other fitness measures — similar to a comparison group that didn’t exercise at all.
A Case To Prove It
I started doing HIIT at the age of 65. To begin with, I did it at lower levels and then build it up slowly. I am now 66 years old and do HIIT 2-3 times a week, combined with light or moderate exercises in between. This way the time gap between hard workouts allows my body to recover, rebuild bones and muscles to enhance strength.
I keep at least one day per week as a rest day on which I go for a long walk. It’s all about balance. Thumb rule is not to push your body to its limit every day – and that’s OK.
The above routine has helped me lower my blood pressure, build muscle mass, lose fat, and improve my cardiovascular fitness.
4 High Intensity Workouts For Seniors
Here are four HIIT exercises that seniors can include in their workout routine. Take up the ones as per your choice. Begin at a slower pace and then gradually progress until you are able to do with high intensity.
Note: It’s always a good idea to discuss with your doctor before starting any of the following exercises, especially if you have an ongoing health condition. But many studies have reported that HIIT can be safe and beneficial for people suffering from diabetes, heart disease and more.
In one study, people with heart disease who alternated between fast and slow pedaling on an exercise bike (20 and 40 seconds, respectively) improved how fast their heart rates slowed to normal after exercise. Cardiologists consider this as an important indicator for longevity.
Note: Please halt the exercise if you feel giddy, sick, have muscle cramps, or have uncomfortable pain anywhere in your body.
HIIT Exercise # 1: Treadmill
A treadmill is a great piece of equipment for HIIT exercise as you can control the speed, incline and thus intensity. You also have the option of stopping the machine, or stepping off easily if you need a rest.
Warm up: 5-minute walk or slow jog. You can do it on treadmill as you start.
Work interval: 20 seconds “sprint”
Rest interval: 90 seconds walk
Repeat 4-6 times
Cool down at the end of exercise: 5-minute walk on the treadmill.
This is broadly a typical structure of the treadmill HIIT workout. You can adjust the timings, speed and incline of the treadmill during the “sprint” in line with your current fitness level.
When first starting out, you try to go for a level at which you’re out of breath but can still hold up a conversation. And as you progress while performing this during several weeks, you will be inspired to work towards a level in which you’re so out of breath that you can barely keep up a conversation through the high intensity workout period of the HIIT.
As you get fitter, gradually either increase the speed or incline of the treadmill to keep your body progressing every week.
To start with you can perform this exercise once a week, and slowly progress to doing it 2-3 times a week. But always remember to keep a watch over how your body feels and adjust the workout accordingly.
HIIT Exercise # 2: Cycling
This is another great exercise equipment that lets you perform easily HIIT in a controlled environment. It also helps build up muscle mass and strength in your legs.
Warm up: 5 minutes of light cycling
Work interval: 20 seconds of cycling at max intensity
Rest interval: 90 seconds of light cycling
Repeat 4-6 times
Cool down at the end of the exercise: 2 minutes of light cycling followed by 2 minutes of walking
In this exercise also you can adjust the resistance and intensity of your work interval according to your fitness level.
And every week you can increase the resistance and intensity, or even add more work intervals into the workout to keep improving your body’s stamina and endurance .
HIIT Workout # 3: Dumbbell Circuit
This workout is more difficult and needs more co-ordination than the above two workouts. But the plus point here is that this multifaceted workout helps build up your muscles, improve cardiovascular health and strengthen your bones – all together at the same time.
Warm up: Do stretching exercises for 5 minutes or arm swings followed by 3-5 minutes of medium-paced walking, according to your preference.
The Dumbbell Circuit Workout
For this workout, you’ll need to pick total four exercises – one from any of these 4 groups:
Note: Preferably, include one exercise for your legs.
The 4 chosen exercises will be considered as one circuit. Select an appropriate weight for each exercise that allows you to perform each exercise with correct form. Perform the four exercises consecutively without any rest. After completing the 4 exercises (one circuit), take a 90-120 seconds rest and then repeat the circuit again 3-5 times. As you get stronger, increase the weight or reps for each exercise.
HIIT Exercise # 4: Swimming
If you suffer from sore joints, then using treadmill, bicycle or dumbbells can feel a little too much. A great alternative is to do HIIT session in a pool! Swimming is a feasible option for also those who are overweight or have arthritis, but still desire to workout at higher intensities without exposing their joints to higher stress typically associated with high-intensity exercises. The water will reduce the impact on the joints, and will also provide a great level of resistance.
Warm up: Warm up before the workout for 5-10 minutes by swimming at a slow pace with whatever strokes you will be using in the workout.
The Swimming Workout
Active Work interval: 1 lap sprint
Rest interval: Slow swim 1 lap
Repeat 4-6 times.
You can adjust pace, active work and rest interval durations, depending on your swimming ability, and your current fitness level. Just make sure that you’re working at the highest intensity possible that doesn’t cause pain or extreme discomfort.
There you have 4 HIIT workouts that are the best for seniors. To start with, choose 1 of these workouts and aim for doing it out once a week. As you get stronger you can pick 1 more workout and start doing 2 HIIT sessions in a week. I suggest including maximum of three HIIT sessions a week. Keep on trying different workouts so as not to get bored.
Also remember always to fuel your body before and after your workouts to ensure that you will have sufficient energy to work hard. Hydration is another key thing to consider- aim for at least 8 glasses of fluid per day to keep healthy and full of vitality.
The overall key is to be consistent with your routine and try to progress every week whether by adding more weight, adding more reps, or performing the exercise at a slightly higher intensity. Enjoy HIIT, don’t worry about your age!