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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #205. Too old for HIIT training?
June 15, 2017

June 15, 2017

In this newsletter . . .

Correction: In the previous newsletter I made reference to summer arriving in the western hemisphere. Of course I should have written northern hemisphere. –LF

Are you too old for high intensity interval training?

It’s miraculous. My website service provider can tell me daily which of my pages get the most attention. Always near the top is: “Should Seniors Do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?"

Here’s why.

The facts show that high intensity intervals are great for overall physical conditioning and also burn off fat better than, say, aerobics such as long slow distance running. But the question then becomes: is high intensity training age-appropriate (read safe) for seniors?

For young seniors, let’s say in their 50s, who are in pretty decent shape, and with no prohibitive underlying health problems, the answer is an easy yes. HIIT can be age-appropriate. However, as we get older the answer is not so clear-cut. For older seniors, just how intense should exercise be? Are we talking about, for example, Tabata? That’s pretty tough stuff for the very elderly. Yes, interval training can be good at almost all ages, but maybe there comes a time when the intensity should be toned down.

As for senior beginners of all ages, and especially overweight senior beginners, a much smarter approach than HIIT is to ease into training with a beginners’ strength and fitness program. Later on, higher intensity intervals may come into play.

I admit that at my age (80) I sneak in some Tabata maybe once every week or so. But my overall workout program is definitely not a steady diet of HIIT. Mostly, my workouts are not nearly so intense as that. I simply keep up a steady movement for 30-minutes of exercise, combining resistance work with light cardio. And if you’ve been a subscriber here for a while, you know that I believe in variety, in mixing-up different exercise protocols.

People also ask about the high intensity programs they see in TV infomercials. Some of those programs wouldn’t be sustainable for me personally, at least not as they are portrayed on TV. Even when I was young I didn't believe in pushing myself to the limit workout-after-workout. On the few occasions I tried going all out at every session, I soon began to dread training. I also suspect overuse injuries would have been in the offing had I continued along that road.

Generally, extremes get riskier as we get older. Be prudent. Older folks should let their doctors know what they’re up to. And if HIIT is part of your plan, ease into it. Don't jump in at full-throttle.

Here are a few workout guidelines that I almost universally recommend:

  • All balanced fitness programs should include elements of a) strength training, b) cardiovascular exercise, and c) flexibility movements. Based on personal preferences and goals, you can put emphasis on either a, b, or c; but totally ignoring any one of them won’t provide a balanced fitness program. Some interval circuit training arrangements can combine all three elements in a single workout, or, of course, they can be divided into separate segments.

  • Don’t do marathon workout sessions. Generally, anything over an hour in a gym is too much. Less than an hour is usually even better, provided that it is time-spent training, not standing around talking. Yes, I know Jack LaLanne is said to have been doing two-hour-plus workouts into his nineties. He was one in a million.

  • Cross training (mixing things up) can be fun because changes of routine tend to keep things interesting, and overuse injuries are more preventable than when doing the same movements over-and-over, month-after-month, year-after-year.

  • Select exercise programs that appeal to you. Group exercise classes, for example, are right for some people. Others hate them. Whether training in groups or training alone, strength, cardiovascular and flexibility movements can all be done using only your own bodyweight exercises. On the other hand, why not include free weights, resistance bands or kettlebells if they are available to you? Mix them up.

There is a training lifestyle for every taste and to meet every fitness goal. HIIT may, or may not, be part of it. Get fit, stay fit, and be happy.

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Newsletter Policy

The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.

Like newspapers, magazines and television, this newsletter and my web site contain advertising and marketing links. Naturally, I am compensated for these.

The newsletter and web site provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you.

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Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter

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