HIIT for Seniors

“I am a senior citizen, should I be implementing HIIT to my fitness regiment?”  The short answer is yes, but it depends.  Everybody is different, always be sure to check with your doctor or licensed physician before implementing any physical fitness training program, this is especially critical when it comes to HIIT.  It’s important to understand realistically where you’re at physically and what kind of shape you’re in.  As we age, our bodies break down.  We lose strength, bone density, we have less hormones responsible for recovery and repair.  It becomes difficult and somewhat of an uphill battle to maintain strength and muscle.  HIIT is a taxing activity that can put a lot of stress on the skeleton and central nervous system.  If you’re healthy enough for physical activity, without any underlying health issues, HIIT is a great way to maintain and build strength, muscle, and lose fat.

HIIT is high intensity interval training.  In the mainstream fitness industry, it’s most commonly associated with alternating between hardcore sprints and jogs and is an extremely taxing activity for the fitness elite.  However intensity is relative and you can most certainly scale the intensity so there’s no need to be intimidated, HIIT can be for anybody and everybody!  For senior citizens, HIIT is highly recommended, as long as you’re healthy and implementing it correctly.  In an interview with AARP, Jordan Metzl; a sports-medicine physician at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery, defines HIIT as “simply doing a short burst of maximum intensity over a short period of time.”  You can see the full interview and a helpful video here:  http://blog.aarp.org/2015/01/29/exercise-trend-hiit-me-with-your-best-shot/.

Often times you’ll see HIIT implemented out on the track, on a hill, or on a treadmill.  For seniors, low impact HIIT is recommended to start with.  Low impact HIIT would include

  • cycling
  • swimming
  • recumbent biking, and
  • elliptical machine.

However, you can also implement HIIT with bodyweight and even simpler, alternating between fast and slow walking.  Here’s a great link to some great HIIT walking routines to get you started:  http://thecrux.com/doc-eifrig-why-you-should-exercise-like-an-athlete/.


Strength training with HIIT for seniors

Although most people separate strength training with HIIT, either on different days or consecutive workouts, it is possible to twist HIIT into your strength training routine to save time.

  • For example, two to three times a week you can do a full body circuit with machines, free weights or a combination of both.
  • You perform one exercise, rest a bit, and then walk over to the next exercise, repeat this two to three times.
  • You can slowly change the intensity by resting shorter in between exercises.  It’s always important to start light, small, slow, and basic, and work your way up as you gain strength and become more comfortable with the exercises and movements.

If you’re exercising at a commercial gym, don’t be afraid to approach a personal trainer.  Often times, they will have somebody on staff that will specialize in senior citizen training.  They will also be able to show you how to do the movements with proper form to avoid injury.