HIIT workouts, also known as high intensity interval training, have become quite popular as of recently. The reason for this is because they’re able to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time. However, they do require a great deal more work! During a HIIT workout, the objective is to do bursts of intense effort movements with short rest periods or active rest. This is just enough time to catch your breath and move onto the next exercise. It is maximum effort when working.
Many seniors are unsure if this type of workout is right for them and for good reason! It can be quite intense. But it’s also not impossible for seniors to do a HIIT workout. In fact, there are many different variations of doing one. Before we get into the video workout, let’s go through some benefits and cautions to HIIT workouts, and why this workout is accessible for seniors.
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Benefits of HIIT Workouts
Mayo Clinic researchers studied the effects of HIIT workouts in a group of people aged 30 and younger, and on people over age 65. What they found was HIIT changed a cell’s DNA in the way it made the muscles produce energy. The mitochondria health, which creates energy in our cells, increased. And this was especially true in the older participants in the study.
Even more, some of the age-related deterioration of muscle cells was actually reversed. It boosted the muscle’s ability to produce energy and started the growth of new muscles. And as we age, we know that is most important to counteract muscle loss. According to the study’s senior author Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, the decline in the health of muscles as we age can actually be “corrected” with intense exercise. It’s never too late to benefit from exercise, he adds.
A study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience showed that as little as six weeks of HIIT workouts, in length of 20-minutes or longer, improved the 95 participants’ recall skills. Specifically, it improved their high interference memory. That is when some memories interfere with the retrieval of others, meaning some memories are entirely forgotten. This was improved!
Proteins that aid in brain cell growth increased. Those proteins are important now and in the future of the brain’s long term memory process. “One hypothesis is that we will see greater benefits for older adults, given that this type of memory declines with age,” said Jennifer Heisz, Ph.D., the lead study author. “As we reach our senior years, we might expect to see even greater benefits in individuals with memory impairment brought on by conditions such as dementia,” she stated.
The high intensity and push, then the short recovery periods help with cardiovascular health as well as heart health and lung health and capacity. In a study done, a group of participants aged 65 and over increased their ability to take in oxygen by 69-percent. The heart and lungs being pushed with HIIT workouts helps get oxygen to the muscles.
How Can I Do It?
It is easier than you think! You do not need any special equipment. It can be as simple as walking at a faster pace for two minutes then slowing it down for two minutes. Rotate between those intervals for the duration of your normal walk.
A study showed walkers who did a high intensity work/low intensity recovery improved their aerobic fitness, leg strength, and blood pressure. This can be done in all workouts you do, from biking to swimming to walking to weight training.
Like I always say, listen to your body! HIIT workouts should only be done once or twice a week, especially for a beginner. Like the name says, it is high intensity so the body needs more time to recover.
Focus on form and breathing while doing your workouts always, but especially when you choose to increase repetitions and duration while doing a movement. Take breaks when needed and always go at your pace!
Beginner HIIT Workout for Seniors
In this workout, we are going through a great full body HIIT, High-Intensity Interval Training, workout.
For our workout, we are hitting all areas of the body and are including some weights. However, you don’t have to use weights. This workout is just as effective with just range of motion and no weights being used. Also, we are using a chair during some of the movements. You can use a chair, countertop, wall, or whatever is sturdy and stable for you to hold onto for balance and support.
As always remember to drink lots of water and only do movements that you feel comfortable with. Listen to your body first and foremost! And have FUN!
For more videos by Meredith, check out Senior Fitness with Meredith.