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High Intensity Interval Training for Seniors

What You Need to Know About Interval and Intensity Training for Seniors

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a new approach to exercise that’s gaining in popularity with seniors. For many, it’s a better, more efficient way to build strength and cardiovascular health. In fact, the AARP has profiled how and why high-intensity interval training can become part of any senior’s fitness regimen.

The basic idea of high-intensity interval training is that you perform short bursts of maximum intensity exercise, and then follow that up with short periods of active recovery. The classic example is a series of sprints, followed by slow jogging, followed again by a series of sprints. As a rule of thumb, you should minimize the amount of recovery time between sets in order to derive the greatest cardiovascular benefits.

When it comes to working out – either at the gym or at home - the theory behind high-intensity interval training is that you are combining resistance training with cardiovascular exercise at the same time. That’s why some medical practitioners claim that it could be more efficient at improving overall fitness.

Of course, as a senior, you’re not going to be sprinting around a track. Instead, the idea is to incorporate high-intensity interval training into your daily workout. If you go to gyms, you’ll notice that many of them have separate areas of the floor dedicated to interval training, perhaps even with arrows on the floor instructing you exactly how to do the workout. The idea is to go from machine to machine, very quickly, minimizing the rest period between resistance exercises. In fact, the process of walking from station to station is your period of active recovery.

You can mimic this same type of program with an all-in-home gym. With a home gym, it’s even easier to set up the interval workout, because each machine typically provides 20-25 exercises. One fitness program is to start off with 5-10 minutes of light workout to get your heart rate elevated, and then combine a set of 10-15 reps for chest, back and shoulders before resting for 1 minutes and then continuing with a set of 10-15 reps of lat pull downs, bicep curls and tricep curls. You would then rest 1 minute before continuing again. Instead of walking from station to station, as you would in the gym, you would simply walk around the room in your house.

You get the idea here – by changing the rest period between sets and by varying the number of reps, you can change the intensity of the workout. Even if you don’t have a full home gym, there are plenty of ways you could develop a high-intensity interval workout. Kettlebells, for example, are often used as part of interval training programs. And running or biking hills is another great way to put interval training to work – the hard part is climbing the hill, the period of recovery is the process of running down the hill. In a gym, most exercise bikes are set up to use with interval training programs.

The big caveat here, of course, is that seniors over the age of 60 – especially if they suffer from chronic disease – shouldn’t be pushing themselves too hard. The basic rule of thumb is that HIIT is great for young seniors (those in their 50s) who are in relatively decent shape, but not the best for those who are very overweight or in very poor fitness.

That being said, interval training and intensity training can be a great way for seniors to get in shape in a way that is challenging and fun. It might just remind you of your younger days when you were running sprints in the high school gym.

Graham Forbes

About the Author.

Graham Forbes is a 70 year old educator and health and fitness blogger who regularly writes on the issues of fitness and wellness for Boomers. His website http://getfitnessathome.com/ provides advice on how and why older people should set up their own health and fitness program. Graham is an example and advocate of fitness that is achieved gently and with enjoyment.

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