The biggest trend in the exercise world today is high-intensity interval training or HIIT. Everyone is using it from athletes to stay-at-home moms.
But, is HIIT appropriate if you’re getting on up there in age?
Most seniors have heard from their doctor that walking is the best exercise. And, while walking is a good option, you can get bigger benefits faster if you incorporate interval training into your routine.
In fact, HIIT is one of the best ways to stay in shape, keep your bones strong and your muscles lean, and to lose weight if that’s your goal.
The key is to exercise smart.
Just remember… be realistic about your expectations, reasonable about your current fitness levels and always talk to your doctor before you start a new exercise program if you have specific health problems.
So, the first question people have is “What is HIIT?”
Luckily, it’s pretty simple.
In a nutshell, interval training is doing a set of exercises, followed by a rest and then repeating.
An example of this would be jumping rope followed by walking.
For HIIT, the goal is to work at your maximum ability during the exercise to get the best benefits possible.
3 interval training options
#1 – Walking with a twist
The first option you have to reap the benefits of interval training is to add a twist to a good old-fashioned walk.
Instead of your normal route, choose one where you will have to go up and down hills.
On the way up your heart rate and breathing accelerates and then the downhill slope provides your rest period. This would be a great way to ease into the idea of HIIT.
#2 – Using the treadmill
If you have a treadmill, it offers a great way to add HIIT into your exercise routine.
What you will do is perform a 20-second “sprint” followed by 90 seconds of walking. Repeat this cycle 2-3 times, building up to a total time of 10 minutes.
Now, don’t feel intimidated. The “sprint” should be adapted to your fitness levels and can be anything from true sprinting to just a brisk walk.
The goal is to start at a pace that leaves you slightly out of breath but you could still talk to a person standing next to you. Gradually build up over a period of several weeks to a level during your “sprint” where you are so out of breath you wouldn’t be able to have a conversation.
As your fitness level improves, you can do this workout 2-3 times per week.
#3 – Using weights
A great way to tone your muscles and improve bone density is to add weights into your HIIT routine.
You will be doing 4 exercises followed by a 90-second rest. Your goal is to repeat this 3-5 times for a total of approximately 10 minutes.
As you go along, you can change up the individual exercises to suit your needs but here is a good place to start:
- Bicep curls: 1 set of 10 reps – Hold your weights down by your sides, palms facing forward and curl your hands up toward your shoulders. Lower to starting position and repeat.
- Squats: 1 set of 12 reps – Stand with feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, your head facing forward and your chest up. Sit back and down like you’re sitting into an imaginary chair. You can hold on to a counter-top or the back of a chair for added stability.
- Shoulder Press: 1 set of 10 reps – Stand straight up or sit in a chair with back support. Your feet should be hip-width apart. Bend your elbows and raise your upper arms to shoulder height so the dumbbells are at ear level. Push the dumbbells up and in until the ends of the dumbbells touch lightly directly over your head, and then lower the dumbbells back to ear level.
- Plank (30 second hold) – Lie face down with legs extended and elbows bent and directly under shoulders and clasp your hands. Feet should be hip-width apart, and elbows should be shoulder-width apart. Contract your stomach muscles and tuck your toes to lift your body, with your forearms still flat on the ground. You should be in a straight line from head to heels.
Get the benefits
Interval training offers some amazing benefits, including improved metabolism, reduced body fat, increased muscle tone and stronger bones. Just take into account your current fitness levels and limitations and you will be able to design a program that works for you.