April 15, 2012

Can an a 65 year old
do an “Insanity Workout”?

The good people at SBI provide me with a daily list of search engine referral terms that lead visitors to Senior Exercise Central. This past week, someone typed the following into a search engine box: “Can a 65 year old do an Insanity Workout?” and was referred to my website. For those unfamiliar with Insanity Workouts, it is a popular high intensity program sold online. I have no idea who the man or woman is who asked the question, but I hope my website was helpful.

The question about the appropriateness of Insanity Workouts for aging trainees is worth examining. Popular programs like Insanity Workouts, or P90X, or CrossFit are high intensity training. Each may have a different approach but what is required in common is intense effort. And since we only get out of a program what we put into it, even seniors might think high intensity training is appropriate for them.

These popular methods have thousands of followers. But except for doing one month’s worth of CrossFit workouts (a few years ago), I have no personal experience with any of them. So it would be unfair of me to critique the three methods, though I do question some things I have seen people doing in their infomercials and on their websites. In general, I urge caution to people at mid-life and older when it comes to signing on to regular high intensity training.

In fairness, I should point out that most of the high profile, high-intensity systems do offer programs they say are tailored for older adults. However, those programs typically are not what you see in the online advertising or on TV. Rather, you see much younger people demonstrating and advocating the workouts. Are the programs they’ve designed for seniors a good bet for those of us over 50? Since I haven’t done them, I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is this: As we age, certain workout practices get riskier and should be adjusted or, in some instances, avoided altogether. Any out-of-shape beginner over 50 is courting trouble and maybe disaster by attempting high-intensity training before building a reasonable fitness base. The old rule of starting out easy and progressing gradually to more challenging training is the sensible approach to a strength and fitness lifestyle.

Injury to tendons and ligaments is a likely result of jumping right into either heavy lifting or high intensity training. All-out one-rep-maximum lifts, for example, or gut busting cardio workouts are flirting with serious trouble. Tendons and ligaments may be challenged beyond their limits. And blood pressure skyrockets during all-out maximum efforts. Is that the smartest fitness approach for seniors? I don’t think so.

Cautionary notes are valid and should be respected. This does not mean wimping out as we grow older. Exercise for strength and fitness should be life long. But ignoring the reality of aging by trying to workout with the same intensity as athletes in their 20s and 30s is foolish. My advice to senior beginners is to push forward but push gently. And “listen to your body,” as the saying goes. Ease up if you are still tired the day following a training day. Stop doing exercise that relentlessly pounds your joints in the same way, workout after workout. Adjust.

Keep your workouts short but focused. Marathon sessions in the gym are counter-productive. Get in. Get to work. Get out. A little muscle soreness is fine. But if an exercise hurts your joints, don’t do it. It is surprising how many older trainees stubbornly go on doing something that plainly hurts them, thinking that somehow they will work their way through it. Usually it gets worse.

Never stop exercising. But at some point after passing 50, maybe it is better to leave the full, all out, gut busting, high-intensity workouts to the young. It’s something to think about.

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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. Your comments and questions are always appreciated.


Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter