DThe older we get, the more likely we are to decrease the intensity of our workouts. Exercise that is too easy will not allow you to reap all of the benefits. However, if we exercise too hard, we might not be able to adequately recover during the workout and may have to stop short of completing it.
The RPE scale (pictured above) is very useful to help you gauge the intensity during a HIIT session rather than measuring heart rate because it is much simpler and doesn't require any math or pulse counting. For the same reasons, this is also a great method you can use with your trainer. By familiarizing yourself with the RPE scale, you can communicate quantitatively how you are feeling.
It's important to note that intensity, duration, and recovery are interdependent. The harder the exercise interval, the shorter you will be able to do it and the longer recovery period will be needed.
During your HIIT workout, there should be times of "active" recovery. This means that while you may be out of breath, you should keep moving (not standing still, sitting, or lying down). In fact, if you need to do any of those things, that is a pretty good indicator that the high intensity part of the workout was too intense. Therefore, keep in mind that your optimal Base Level during the recovery phase should be around 11-13 on the RPE scale.
To increase your intensity during the intervals you can either:
For an example of how RPE works, see the simple HIIT workouts listed below.
Beginner HIIT Workout
Start easy and gradually increase intensity so that you achieve an RPE of about 11-12 (your base level) by the end of the warm-up
Stage 1 (9:00) 3 Hills:
Stage 2 (4:00) 3 Sprints
Cool Down (3:00)
Decrease intensity to achieve an RPE of 9-10. Heart rate should come down significantly.
While it is true that aging adults have a different set of needs, interests, and desires than their younger counterparts and are often misunderstood, there are numerous myths, misconceptions, and negative stereotypes about aging and what it means to grow old. These incorrect perspectives are often barriers for both the aging population as well as the professionals that work with them to improve their fitness and nutrition. Many aging adults feel they are simply "doomed" to the consequences of natural aging and many professionals are fearful of working with this population.
It should not be this way. And, here's why:
MYTH #1: To be old is to be sick - This myth centers around the belief that aging and disease go hand-in-hand and that individuals are destined to end up in the nursing home or suffering from a catastrophic illness once they get older. While the prevalence of chronic disease increases with advancing age, a large number of mature adults are healthy, robust, and without any significant functional limitations.
MYTH #2: You can't teach an old dog new tricks - Heard this one before??!!! The myth here is the belief that senility and dementia are not only a natural part of aging, but that it is inevitable. Recent evidence regarding brain plasticity PROVES that the human mind retains its ability to learn throughout the lifespan and declines in cognition are largely AVOIDABLE. There are MANY lifestyle behaviors such as exercise levels, dietary choices, alcohol consumption, tobacco use and the level of mental stimulation that have been shown to be important factors in how much cognitive decline occurs with advancing age.
MYTH #3: The horse is out of the barn - It is often believed that once an individual is older it is "too late" to reduce disease risk, increase health status, or become fit. Not true. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to show the physiologic capacity for positive adaption is no lost...even in advanced age. For example, resistance training (or strength training) studies conducted on individuals in their 90's found that skeletal muscle can still grow and become stronger. We now know that it is never too late to positively benefit from an exercise program.
MYTH #4: The real secret to successful aging is to choose your parents wisely - Genetics definitely influence disease risk and longevity but their effects are GROSSLY overestimated. There are some specific diseases that have strong hereditary components, such as some forms of cancer, for example, and there are studies on centenarians that show there is a genetic influence on their longevity. HOWEVER, the overall evidence is clear: The influence of lifestyle and environment are far more important factors in the determination of health and functional ability than genetics.
As a Functional Aging Specialist and Certified Health Coach specializing in adults and seniors, it is important to me that my clients understand the above mentioned myths. No one is "doomed" and it is never too late to start making healthier lifestyle choices and implementing an exercise routine consisting of strength, endurance, and flexibility training. Of course, it is crucial that we start slow and make one small change at a time, but it's even more important to know that it is scientifically proven that small changes over time can lead to big results in how you will move and how you will feel.
Did you know that the risk of falling increases more than five times between the ages of 50 and 75? In fact, falls are the #1 cause of injury related deaths for people over the age of 65. That's scary.
We can, however, understand why this is the case and learn ways to decrease our risk. First, let's take a look at what is going on in our body and brain as we age that increases our risks of falls and second, steps we can take to reduce our chances.
Why Prime-Timers are More Prone to Accidents
1. Brain and balance will be off - As we age, the eye-muscle-brain communication pathway slows down. We experience diminished proprioception, which means the ability to adjust our posture to compensate for changing surfaces underfoot. For example, if there is a toy in the floor, you know you need to step over it, but the relay from your eye to your brain to your reaction is slowed, and therefore, you trip.
Also, the structures within the middle ear that helps us maintain balance, weakens with age. The best way to keep our proprioception and sense of balance in tact is to keep our muscles and nerves strong through reactive games, like Ping-Pong.
2. Your senses decline with age - Unfortunately, this means that you may not see, hear, or smell an accident coming. Because our senses don't work as well as they used to AND the fact that our proprioception and balance are off, we may not respond as we would in our younger years. We may not see the object in the floor, or that last step on the stairs, and we may not hear a ball rolling on the floor toward us thrown by our favorite grandchild. You may not smell something burning in the kitchen, but when you do and you try to react, the weakened other senses come into play.
3. You may develop an accident-prone heart - Many prime-time falls occur when people quickly change position, such as from sitting to standing or hopping out of bed. Normally, a sudden change in position, from down to up, gives a signal to the heart to pump more blood to the brain. Yet, as we age, this signaling system weakens, causing something called orthostatic hypotension, or postural hypotension. When you change position, the blood pressure drops, blood flow to the brain is insufficient, and you get light-headed, or even faint and fall. It's also important to note that postural hypotension is made worse by plaque buildup in arteries, atherosclerosis, and diabetes.
Now that you understand what is going on in the body and brain that increases the risk of falling, let's now take a look at things you can do to decrease your risk.
6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Falling
1. Move slow as you get up and go - Always change position slowly to give your heart advance warning that your brain needs adjustment of blood flow.
2. Keep fit - The stronger your muscles and bones are and the more muscle-coordination activities you do to improve your balance, the lower your risk of falling and of being injured if you do fall. Fit people suffer fewer fractures.
3. Light your way - Keep a nightlight on for those middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. Don't walk around in the dark! Even better, before going to bed, make sure the path is clear from your bed to the bathroom and from your bed to the kitchen, or wherever you might get a drink of water.
4. See where you're going - Make sure your glasses fit the activity. Bifocals, for example, may help your reading, but can blur your path while walking.
5. Fall-proof your home - Here are just a few ideas:
** Make sure you have nonskid backings on all your rugs
**Keep entrances and hallways well lit - especially around stairs
**Keep floors clear of clutter
**Cover any temporary extension cords you are using with rugs or duct tape
** Install nonslip adhesive strips on the floor of your shower or bathtub
**Avoid placing decorative bed pillows on the floor when going to sleep
6. Drink alcohol for taste, not effect - Limit yourself to no more than one drink per day. A drink is equivalent to 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.
Mature adults benefit from incorporating a weekly exercise routine. Fitness is important for keeping your muscles and bones strong, your joints flexible, your brain sharp, and your balance stable. The best exercise is the one that you will do! To know how much exercise you really need to see results, keep reading!
If you are brand new to fitness training, then aim to start with just 20 minutes a couple of days per week. Over time, you will will build up your strength and endurance and may be able to reach a total of 60 minutes of exercise per day., with 30 minutes dedicated to strength training! But as you begin a strength program, you will want to start low and go slow. This means that the older you are, the lighter the weights should be, and the more careful you need to be.
To see amazing results, mature adults should aim for twice weekly progressive strength training. This has been shown to be just as effective as training three days per week. Research suggests that older adults need a longer recovery than younger adults. The more you increase your sets, reps, and weight used, the longer your body will need to recover.
Another aspect of a strength program is training for muscle power. This type of training tends to decline earlier and faster than muscle strength with advancing age. Muscle power is even more important than traditional strength training for many functional tasks such as stair-climbing and rising from a chair. Power training using a variety of equipment such as body weight, sand bags, weighted vests, medicine balls, kettlebells, and resistance bands can all be used and typically require using lower weight but at more intensity. It should be noted that before beginning power training, you should have proper form, and a conditioning phase focused on muscular strength and endurance.
Balance and Fall Prevention Training
Falls are due to a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic factors include a history of falls, living alone, certain medications, impaired mobility and gait, sedentary behavior, visual impairments, poor lower extremity strength, and fear of falling.
Extrinsic factors include environmental hazards, improper footwear and clothing, and the use of walking aids or assistive devices.
Exercise has been identified as the best single intervention to prevent falls in older adults with up to 42% of falls being preventable with a well-designed exercise program.
To get the best results, balance and fall prevention training should be performed for at least two hours per week for a 6-month period. Further, balance improvements are lost quickly if training stops.
Two options for balance and fall prevention training include Tai Chi and Yoga. Tai Chi is an ancient martial art with many different forms that incorporates mild strength training, balance, postural alignment and concentration by using slow, continuous movement of many body parts.
Yoga has gained momentum over the years among both the general population and mature adults. While more studies need to be done on the effectiveness of yoga, modest improvements in gait, balance, upper and lower body flexibility and lower body strength have been reported in the literature. Also, be aware that some yoga poses may be inappropriate for older adults with specific chronic diseases or orthopedic concerns.
HIIT Training (High Intensity Interval Training) is a very effective form of cardio conditioning. During the exercise intervals, heart rate and metabolism increase significantly. During periods of recovery (lower-intensity exercise), heart rate, oxygen usage, and metabolism remain elevated above the level that you would expect from low-intensity exercise.
One way to think of HIIT training is that it is kind of like shaking a snow globe. If you give it just a little shake then you don't disturb all the flakes and the snow disappears quickly. But, if you give a vigorous shake, you disturb many more flakes with the water swirling violently around inside and it takes much longer for the snow to disappear. HIIT training, therefore, "shakes up" your metabolism and the harder you exercise the more calories you burn afterwards.
If you are new to endurance training, start with something you enjoy doing like walking, swimming, dancing, hiking, etc. Then, to try higher intensity training, experiment by exercising a little harder than usual until you feel like you are getting out of breath and then back off to your usual pace or even a little below it. Eventually, try progressing to longer intervals (2-3 minutes) and limit how hard you go during the higher=intensity phase. Keep in mind that the recovery intervals should be longer than the higher-intensity intervals; shoot for a ratio of 1:2 or 1:3. A general idea would be to begin higher-intensity periods of about 30 seconds, and no more than 3 sets of intervals. Aim to increase over time and work up to as much as 2-3 minutes of higher-intensity, followed by adequate recovery for a total of 5 or more sets during a workout.
Being fit and healthy is an important aspect of prime-time health. Whether you are in the preventive mindset or repair mode, exercise is a critical part of functional aging. As we age, our sense of balance, coordination, and response time all tend to decrease which can lead to falls, the number one cause of injury related deaths in the United States.
But, if we spend just 20 minutes a day focusing on exercise, we can drastically reduce our chances of injury related falls, and continue to live our lives on our own terms rather than be limited by our chronological age. In fact, studies have proven, for example, that older adults can maintain muscle with exactly the same amount of strength training as younger adults. Losing muscle is the main reason people decline as they get older, but it doesn't have to be this way!
So, what kind of exercise do prime-timers need? A balance of strength training, endurance training, and flexibility training. We need to build up our muscles, which will in turn create stronger bones. We need to work on endurance so our heart doesn't have to work as hard, and we need to work on our stretching so we can do all the things we want to do.
Think of movement as the best medicine you'll ever take and one that has only pleasant side effects. In fact, exercise is the most under utilized antidepressant!
As you begin to think about adding exercise to your daily life, it can be hard to know where exactly to begin. Like I said, there are three aspects of training (strength, endurance, and flexibility) so if we plan just 20 minutes per day, we would start with 2 days focused on strength, 2 days focused on endurance, and 2 days focused on stretching.
If you are new to all of this, then the best thing you can do for yourself is start low and go slow. Don't do too much at once. Here is a simple 6-day plan you can follow:
Day 1: Resistance bands for 20 minutes
Day 2: 20 minute walk
Day 3: Brief 5 minute warm-up followed by 15 minutes of stretching
Day 4: Dumbbell strength training for 20 minutes
Day 5: Swimming, dancing, golf, tennis, whatever you enjoy for 20 minutes
Day 6: Yoga
There are tons and tons of free videos online to help you get started. However, if you are worried about hurting yourself, it's a good idea to hire a personal trainer in the beginning. A good personal trainer will help you figure out a plan, assess your current fitness level, your ability to balance, and your range of motion through various exercises, and then work with you to develop a plan that will get you the results you want. It's important to know that you will not need a personal trainer forever. You may feel very comfortable exercising on your own after just a few months!
If you would like to know more about the personal training services I offer, please click here.