Older Adult Fitness Blog

Benefits of Intense Exercise for Older Adults – “HIIT it!”

Exercise can actually regenerate cells, and this is especially important as we age.

The best kind of exercise for this is interval type exercise, which is bouts of intense exercise followed by a rest of less intensity. This can be in the form of Tabata-type exercise (named after the Japanese researcher who first identified it), which is 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by a 10 second rest and then you repeat the exercise again for 4 minutes. This type of exercise is also called HIIT (high intensity interval training), and can reverse many degenerative problems associated with getting old. This research is especially interesting to the baby boomer generation that wants to keep healthy, travel, explore and even venture into second careers. In order to do all this, the baby boomers are searching for the elixir of youth and HIIT is a form of exercise that can certainly help.

The latest research found that when two groups (one between the ages of 18 and 30 and another between 65 and 80) performed HIIT exercises, the young participants saw an impressive 49% increase in mitochondria activity. The older group saw an amazing 69% increase in mitochondria activity, wow! Mitochondria function as tiny batteries producing energy to fuel activity. This is especially interesting to note, since the cells in older muscles do not regenerate easily and become weaker as their mitochondria diminish in number and health.

Older adults who involve themselves in intense exercise will reap the most rewards. Older people’s cells responded in some ways more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the young did. It appears that the decline in the cellular health of muscles associated with aging was corrected with exercise, especially if it was intense.

New research is finding that spending hours in the gym is not the best way to increase your overall fitness level and long bouts of cardio, for example, 30 minutes plus on the treadmill is really boring and does not fit into a lot of people’s busy schedules now. Interval training becomes much more appealing to exercisers because of the short time period that will still yield great results. Often when we think of HIIT, we think of very high intensity exercise that has to be performed to yield the results but the type of activity and intensity performed during HIIT is determined by the participant. While an athlete may engage in sprints, a person new to HIIT or someone who has not exercised very much can start by doing different walking intervals.

What is exciting about the new person starting HIIT is that they are going to see results right away and notice improvement almost immediately. As with any new exercise program that you are starting, it is a good idea to have a chat with your doctor before jumping in.

If you are looking to gain back a decade or two and want to try something new as you age that will keep you feeling healthy, active and capable of doing the activities that you still want to, consider HIIT!

About the Author

Laurie is a Fitness Instructor and Trainer with her Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification (AFLCA) in Older Adult (65+) Fitness, as well as a prior graduate of SAIT. She is the founder and owner of Staying Active Health & Wellness Ltd. She created this blog to further her mission of bringing fitness awareness to older adults, and also when she realized that there are not many older adult fitness blogs out there! Laurie lives in Calgary, Canada with her husband Chris and their four children -- as well as Bella, their golden doodle (golden retriever / poodle cross).

Like this post? Want more information on older adult fitness? Subscribe to get updated with all the latest content, or email me at laurie@stayingactive.ca.

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