HIIT for Seniors?

A little reminder

What it is HIIT? It stands for High Intensity Interval Training, which means working out at a lower intensity for a given amount of time, followed by working out at a higher intensity for a given amount of time, in a cycle. For example, a person could walk for two minutes, run for 30 seconds, walk for two, run for 30, etc. HIIT has gotten a lot of hype because the research shows that it is an efficient way to work out.

HIIT now encompasses many modes of exercise. There are HIIT aquatics classes, weight training, and cardio applications. The results are that one can get the same benefit as a regular workout, but in a compacted amount of time…and the benefits can continue for a while after the workout ends. Research shows that when we raise our heart rate significantly, we can continue to burn calories at the higher rate for several hours. That is efficient! And that explains the popularity.

But is it OK for seniors? AARP ran an article on this topic last year: https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2018/high-intensity-interval-training-workout.html. Being a trainer “of a certain age,” I clipped out of the bulletin and took it into the gym, figuring I’d give it a shot.

For many of my hour-long sessions I start out with the beginner’s HIIT suggested in the article: 3 minutes low intensity, 20 seconds high intensity, 2 minutes low, 20 seconds high, 2 minutes low, 20 seconds high, and then 2 minutes of low–for a total of 10 minutes. Of course, how to do HIIT with seniors will differ with each person. A couple of my clients have advanced to the point that we now do 30 seconds high intensity at each interval. Depending on their ability, balance and agility, I use walking on the track, elliptical, NuStep, or a stationary bike. It is sometimes scary at the beginning since many seniors are not used to “pushing it,” for fear of a heart attack, or because they’ve been told that they are too old for that intensity of exercise.

Trainers and seniors alike should be cautious, but from my experience, HIIT can increase cardio capacity, affecting both endurance and power. As my clients progress, I will continue to tweak the formula. Although skeptical at first, I am a believer in HIIT for older adults when done appropriately. I have seen the results myself!

I’m a certified Functional Aging Specialist!

Readers may recall that I attended the IDEA Personal Fitness Conference – East at the beginning of April in Alexandria, VA. My main reason for going was to do the all-day training for the Functional Aging Specialist Certification. It was a great training (and I got CEC for it), but still needed to take three on-line exams in order to be certified.

I hoped that I would be able to pass all three by the end of April, but wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. Being laid up after foot surgery left me with more time on my hands so I decided to be productive. Many hours of reading and watching videos and I passed the last exam today! With four hours left in April!

As I blogged about earlier, FAI is in the forefront of fostering better practices and research in the realm of fitness for older adults. The focus is less on building muscle strength and more on working to keep older adults able to do the things they want and need to do. In other words, we address the wants and needs of our clients in order to keep them functional and independent. There is a greater emphasis on building muscle power (which helps with getting out of a chair or going up the stairs) as well as improving balance and reactivity time.

This will be very interesting for me since this is such a diverse population. Every senior presents with a different fitness and health history; there are 60-year-olds who cannot walk without assistance, and there are 80-year-olds running marathons. This kind of training requires more intense planning and specialization based on getting to know the client really well.

I will keep you posted on how this part of my “business” progresses. In the meantime, I look forward to a little celebration of my accomplishment!