The Art of Aging Well – High-intensity interval training

An older man doing push-ups as part of High-intensity interval training (HIIT)Move your body for healthy aging! Exercise is important for humans of all ages, and that does not change when we age.

Exercise can prevent or delay many of the health problems that come with aging, such as joint pain, back pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Additionally, by increasing your strength, flexibility, balance, mobility, energy, mood, memory, and self-esteem, you can improve your physical and mental well-being. Regular exercise can help you support your independence and quality of life.

Exercise in intense intervals

The words “high-intensity interval training” might sound intimidating, but don’t fret!

A group of seniors/middle-aged adults exercise-walkingHigh-intensity interval training, or HIIT, simply refers to repeated short bursts of intense exercise with longer periods of recovery. High-intensity interval training has garnered attention among exercise scientists as HIIT seems to help people of all ages and any fitness level become healthier. Studies have shown that our bodies get more out of interval training than slow-and-steady exercise.

In fact, the Mayo Clinic randomly assigned seventy-two healthy yet sedentary men and women to either different exercise groups or a control group. The study found that those who did interval training experienced changes in muscles at the cellular level – reversing the natural decline that occurs with aging. Additionally, the cells of older people responded more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the young did.

The potential cost of not moving your body

An image of a middle-aged or senior woman looking sad, with her cheek resting on her hand.• Loss of muscle and bone mass, which increases the risk of falls and fractures.

• Worsen chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some cancers.

• Impair cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving.

• Lower mood and self-esteem, and increase the likelihood of depression, stress, and anxiety.

High-intensity interval training how-tos

• Choose a safe and familiar exercise, like walking, cycling, or bodyweight exercises.

• Use a timer to keep track of your intervals. Start with a 10 x 1 approach: one minute of high-intensity activity, followed by one minute of lower-intensity activity, repeated for ten sets.

A happy, smiling middle-aged man with a blue collared shirt.• Start slow and increase your effort gradually. Think of intensity as a ten-point scale, where zero is no effort and ten is the hardest effort. Aim for a seven or eight during the high-intensity intervals and a three or four during the low-intensity intervals.

• Drink water to stay hydrated throughout your workout.

• Always warm up before starting and cool down after finishing.

• Stretch properly to prevent injury and soreness.

• Alternate HIIT workouts with other types of exercise to prevent overuse injuries. Spread out your HIIT workouts throughout the week with one to two days in between each workout to allow time to recover.

We remind you to always check with your physician before beginning a new exercise program!

You can read more about HIIT on the Mayo Clinics site.

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