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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #265 Is HIIT good for seniors?
December 15, 2019

December 15, 2019

In this newsletter . . .

good for seniors?

*HIIT stands for high intensity interval training.
Doctors and scientists today almost universally believe that regular exercise leads to a healthier and longer life. However, which type of exercise yields the most benefit is where controversy begins. Though some combination of resistance work along with cardiovascular training is recognized by most experts as basic.

Digging a little deeper, Cosmos, a literary science magazine published in Australia, reported three years ago on an interesting study about how exercise stops the aging process. Aging is marked by the steady decrease of the energy-generating capacity of our cells mitochondria. And what the research suggests is that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) — in particular — can effectively stop aging at a cellular level. Let me repeat: high intensity interval training can effectively stop aging at a cellular level. That is quite a statement.

The research, published in Cell Metabolism, showed that HIIT physical activity caused cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and ribosomes, which are responsible for producing our cells’ protein building blocks.

It was small study of 36 men and 36 women from two age groups: volunteers aged 18-30 years and an older group of 65-80 years. The volunteers were placed into groups in three categories: 1) those doing high intensity interval training (HIIT); 2) others doing strength training with weights; and 3) those doing a combination of strength and interval training.

Conclusion: the high intensity interval-training group received the greatest benefit.

Will this be the last word in determining which form of training provides the greatest benefit? I’m not a scientist. But I doubt that this will be the final word. My guess is there will be further studies, and maybe even different outcomes. I’d also add that a study of 36 men and 36 women is pretty small.

Still, the results of the study by real doctors and scientists can be persuasive. So you might ask: As a senior, should I add high intensity interval training to my lifestyle? My own thoughts on HIIT are found here. The page is one of the most visited at my website. Many seniors who workout are curious about HIIT training.

I personally don’t do anything regularly as intense as, say, high intensity Tabata. My cardio now consists mostly of walking/hikes. I’m 83-years-old. Younger seniors may be better candidates for HIIT. Nevertheless, after reading about the study (a couple of years ago), my wife and I decided it would be fun to do a few Tabata workouts.

We picked five exercises and cycled through them using Tabata’s 10-second rest periods between all-out efforts. We picked the following exercises for our experiment:

  • While standing, alternately touching elbows to opposite rising knees.
  • Chest Press (using wall attached resistance bands).
  • Mountain Climbers.
  • Two Arms Rowing (Using wall attached resistance bands.
  • Sit-Ups.

When we cycled through the five exercises once, we began again at the top.

Tabata workouts are over with quickly. Were we really huffing and puffing afterward? You bet. Anyone giving a Tabata workout everything they’ve got, will be huffing and puffing. Guaranteed.

Did Tabata become part of my regular workout pattern? No. I may work in a Tabata effort once in a while. But as I said, my regular cardiovascular exercise these days consists of daily walks/hikes, and for resistance work I use bands. However, younger seniors may like and do well with regular HIIT formats.

To read more about HIIT (and Tabata) go here.

Important Postscript: If you are very overweight and/or a very out-of-shape senior beginner, please do not dive into high intensity intervals. Start your fitness lifestyle first with an age-appropriate beginners’ program.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all


Senior Exercise Central

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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.

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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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