High Intensity Training For Older Adults - South Sound YMCA

High Intensity Training For Older Adults

By Steve Messman, YMCA Personal Trainer

Hi all of you YMCA members. Steve Messman here, ACE certified personal trainer at the South Sound Y, with specialties in Senior Fitness and Functional Movement.

I’ve seen them. You have, too. I’ve sat in the Y gym and watched them. Sat there on my weight bench. Not lifting. Watching. They set their timers and pick up those big balls and slam them to the floor for 30 seconds or more. Then they do jumping jacks. Then they slam that big ball to the floor again. Then squat jumps. More slamming. Then pushups. More slamming. Then battle ropes. Finally, they rest for about a minute. And then they start over, slamming, jumping, pushing, ropes. What are they doing? Why are they doing that? Those people aren’t even lifting any REAL weights. All that work can’t be doing them any good. Can it?

It is, in fact, doing them lots of good! It’s called High-Intensity Training. In a slightly different format, it’s called High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT-pronounced “hit”). They do it. I do it. My wife does it. You should do it, too. Here’s why.

The science is extremely clear. High-intensity training can deliver many benefits to exercisers of all ages. Benefits include increased calorie expenditure, a more efficient use of oxygen, and an increase (yes, an increase) in lean muscle mass. Research has shown that seniors (70+) who have been lifelong exercisers, who exercise about four days per week, can have muscle tissue that functions as if it were years younger. In fact, tissue samples of these active seniors compare favorably to tissue samples of 20+ year old individuals when it comes to preserved skeletal muscle, capillarization, and aerobic enzymes. This means that those older folks have muscle tissue, oxygen consumption rates, blood flow, and metabolic mechanisms that allow them to continue functioning as if they were years younger.

So much for active seniors who have been life-long exercisers. What about those who are not? What about those with chronic health conditions? The truth is that today’s research shows that high-intensity training can provide benefits to anyone, regardless of age or chronic health conditions. The fact is that high-intensity training can be more effective than lower-to-moderate-intensity exercise for improving cardiorespiratory fitness and lowering the risk of high blood pressure and other forms of cardiorespiratory disease. In fact, the latest research suggests that even heart attack victims, and those who have undergone heart surgery, might benefit from HIIT as a component of their rehabilitation. The secret is in the intensity level. Shorter, more intense workouts have been shown to provide less stress to the heart than moderate-intensity, steady-state exercise programs.

Should seniors be doing high intensity workouts? Absolutely! I said in my last article that it doesn’t make any difference how old you are, what our current condition is, or what our starting point is. All of us, each and every one of us, can benefit from a well-designed, well executed program of exercise and nutrition. But please don’t get up in the morning and start doing uphill sprints. Ask a trained professional to help you get started in a program that is progressive and safe. All of the personal trainers at the YMCA are certified professionals. Ask one to help. It’s simply a smart move.

Ready for that change? Contact a personal trainer or nutritionist at your local YMCA.