Take the ‘HIIT’ in your golden years

Posted on: 29th June, 2017

Category: Sport & Fitness

Contributor: West Cork People

Danish freelance journalist and fitness professional Tania Presutti, who now resides in Clonakilty, delivers a series of efficient DIY fitness exercises you can do at home.

Whatever your age, habits are something we learn from early on and keep picking up throughout life. Good habits like brushing teeth and poor ones like smoking stick with us unless we make an effort to change them. Habits – especially the poor habits – seem to be unbreakable. But the good news is that it’s never too late to create new habits. It’s simply a matter of starting and being consistent and within a few months you will have replaced your old habit with a new and better one.

So remember new habits don’t form from one day to the next simply because we want to change in this instant. They change over time, due to consistency and a repeated wish to change. This is true for everybody regardless of where you are in life.

A sweet little example comes from my own family, where my dad used to have little to no patience for salad. Growing up, my mum would often leave the greens out, as my dad didn’t eat them anyway. However now, in their later years, she has decided to serve salad with almost every dinner, both because she loves eating it and because it is healthy. Needless to say my dad has become accustomed to salad. He may not love it, but he’ll eat it.

Another key to a better senior life is an active lifestyle. Physical activity is paramount to keep healthy into the years. For example, if you have a dog, then make the effort to bring it out for a walk. If you’re able, put a leash on it and go for several daily walks. No dog – no problem; put on your shoes and walk anyway.

My grandma used to follow a very short daily exercise session, which followed the news at noon, on the Danish National radio broadcast. As I remember it, it was all over in a couple of minutes. The session entailed stretches for arms, back, chest, legs and glutes. Squats, sidebends and lunges, in short a full body workout, right there in her living room. All guided by the voice on the radio, exercise by exercise, repetition by repetition. Incorporation of a daily routine like this will help keep your muscles and joints flexible and adaptable, which hopefully can help you to live a life full of all the activities you like.

Of course small things like salad on the dinner table and five-minute exercise in the living room has an upper limit when it comes to improving health. But put it all together and you will notice a healthier body, with less aches and pain and a hopefully slight decrease in waistline.

This advice is of course not just valid for the over-55s; good, healthy habits will benefit everyone at any age. However, what is especially good to know, as we get older, is that it is never too late to start. All it takes is commitment to be consistent and soon it’s as much part of our daily life as the way we brush our teeth or make the coffee.

For over-55s, it is of course important to also point out, that as we age, our body breaks down muscle tissue faster if we don’t train regularly and bones becomes more brittle (especially women after menopause should pay attention to this to avoid osteoporosis).

To combat the breakdown of muscle and bones tissue one of the best solutions is weight training, which I’ve mentioned before, however new research suggests that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) can be useful for people in the later years as well. HIIT training is a form of interval training, a cardiovascular exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods.  The following study used four sets of four minutes work followed by three minutes moderate work on stationary bikes.

The Mayo Clinic (US) had three groups respectively doing HIIT training, strength training and a modified combination of the two. The three groups consisted each of two age groups, age 18- 30 and 65-plus

In short, all three training methods improved the participant’s health, but the older HIIT group showed remarkably good numbers (69 per cent) in rejuvenating cells, intake of oxygen and energy production. The researchers also registered larger cellular changes — especially in mitochondria and ribosomes, which are important for maintaining healthy cell function as well as reversal of many age-related changes.

One of the researchers, Sreekumaran Nair MD PhD, said in the conclusion that “any exercise is better than being sedentary. But for older adults, interval training is ‘highly efficient’ when it comes to reversing many age-related changes”.

Now this doesn’t mean you should rush out and do burpees or sprints till you pass out or get a heart attack. The study was done on stationary bikes and the participants were merely going as fast as they could, not trying to break any records or race 25-year-old athletes. However before you jump on your bike or do high knee lifts, talk with your doctor beforehand. HIIT training isn’t for everyone and regular activity and good eating habits will help you keep healthy long into the autumn of your life.

Next month will feature the five-minute Radio Show workout.

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