Interval training is a popular method for training cardio you might have heard of already. But is it suitable for seniors?
In this article, you will learn everything related to interval training for stronger seniors, what interval training is, and how seniors can use interval training to improve their cardiovascular fitness.
What is Interval Training?
Interval training is a training method that is used as a way to push harder than compared to training at a continuous intensity.
Interval training is made up of several rounds of alternating intervals of exercise, ranging from a few minutes to a few seconds. The training intervals alternate between periods of moderate to high-intensity exercise and periods of low-intensity movement or rest.
The duration and intensity of each interval can vary depending on your fitness level and your goals. The type of exercise can vary but usually is done with cardiovascular movements such as running, walking, or biking.
A simple interval walking workout, for example, could consist of 1-minute intervals of fast walking, alternating with 2-minute intervals of walking at a relaxed pace.
Alternating between periods of higher-intensity exercise with lower-intensity exercise is what makes interval training so effective because it allows you to train at a higher intensity on average than you would be able with a steady, continuous effort.
Benefits of Interval Training for Stronger Seniors
Interval training is commonly used to improve performance in cardio-heavy sports, which require endurance, such as long-distance running, soccer, or explosive sports, such as football or wrestling, which require many quick explosive movements over the period of a game or match.
Running athletes use interval training to run faster and farther. But athletes aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a regular interval training routine.
Interval training is beneficial for people of all ages and is especially beneficial for seniors because it improves cardiovascular fitness.
According to Dr. Aaron Baggish, director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, cardiovascular training improves the health of the heart and helps prevent diseases associated with aging.
One study found that older adults who used intervals for their walking exercise showed significantly improved fitness and blood pressure.
Interval training allows you to get more steps and burn more calories in less time. Making workouts easier to fit into a busy schedule and can make the workout itself seem more manageable for people who feel they might not have time for a workout.
Using interval training, you could reduce a 30-minute workout into a 20-minute interval workout, and get similar training effects for your cardiovascular health.
Interval training can also be suitable for seniors who are not able to maintain a fast walking or jogging pace for long periods of time, allowing for the flexibility to scale back the intensities and make the workout easier to handle.
For more experienced level seniors, interval training can allow you to push yourself harder during short periods of higher intensity.
Research published in the National Library of Medicine has found interval training can burn up to 30% more calories than regular continuous-intensity exercise.
For people who may find cardiovascular exercise like walking or running to be boring, interval training might be for you. By using interval training, cardio workouts can not only be cut to be shorter.
But workouts can also seem more engaging and less monotonous because the level of intensity is constantly changing. You can even use each separate higher-intensity interval as a mini challenge within your workout to motivate yourself further.
How to Use Interval Training for Stronger Seniors
Interval training can easily be incorporated into a workout routine. Interval training can be done with a variety of forms of exercise. Popular exercise options for interval training include walking, swimming, rowing, jogging, and biking.
You can give interval training a try by simply using it in your current workout routine. Applying interval training to your exercise routine is simple.
For walks, instead of a steady-paced 30-minute walk, you could start by adding a few 30-second intervals of fast-paced walking, coupled with intervals of walking at a normal moderate pace for 1 to 2 minutes.
And instead of 30 minutes, you could cut each walking session into 20 minutes, and slowly increase the length of each session over time. Three 20-minute interval walking sessions a week is a great start and can get you great results for your cardiovascular fitness.
Although maximum heart rate varies between individuals. It is important that you keep watching over your heart rate when engaging in cardiovascular exercise.
If you notice any irregularities in your heart rate or if your heart rate suddenly jumps up and you are feeling any tightness or pain in your chest, that is a sign to immediately stop what you are doing and find help.
When you drop the intensity to low-intensity intervals, your heart rate should also slow down in response. It should drop at least 10-20 bpm during the low-intensity intervals and continue to come down when you end the session.
If your heart rate is staying elevated, even when you’ve dropped down to low-intensity intervals or have stopped the workout, you’ve likely pushed it a bit too far.
In this case, stop the workout, get some rest, keep an eye on your heart rate, and avoid any intense exercise for a few days.
Examples of Interval Training for Stronger Seniors
Here are three in-depth examples of interval training routines any senior can do:
Walking (outdoors or on a treadmill)
- Warmup: Walk 5 minutes at an easy pace (5/10 effort)
- Work (higher-intensity) interval: Fast walk for 30 seconds at a moderate-hard pace that suits your fitness level (7/10 effort)
- Recovery (lower-intensity) interval: Walk 3 minutes at an easy pace (5/10 effort)
- Repeat for 15 minutes
- Cool down: Walk 5 minutes at an easy pace (5/10 effort)
Cycling (outdoors or on a stationary bike)
- Warmup: bike for 5 minutes at an easy pace (5/10 effort)
- Work (higher-intensity) interval: bike at a moderate-high effort for 30 seconds at a pace that suits your fitness level (7/10 effort)
- Recovery (lower-intensity) interval: bike 3 minutes at an easy pace (5/10 effort)
- Repeat 4-5 times
- Cool down: bike for 5 minutes at an easy pace (5/10 effort)
No Equipment/At Home
- Warmup: walking in place for 5 minutes at an easy pace (5/10 effort)
- Work (higher-intensity) interval: a. Split squats, b. Pushups (against a wall or on your knees) at a moderate-high effort for 30 seconds for each exercise, at a pace that suits your fitness level (7/10 effort)
- Recovery (lower-intensity) interval: walking in place for 1 minute at an easy pace (5/10 effort)
- Repeat 4-5 times
- Cool down: walking in place for 5 minutes at an easy pace (5/10 effort)
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between HIIT and interval training?
Interval training is a category of training that consists of periods of moderate to high-intensity levels of exercise, alternating with periods of low-intensity exercise.
High-intensity interval training or HIIT is a type of interval training.
The difference between HIIT and interval training is that HIIT alternates between high-intensity exercise to increase the heart rate to at least 80% of a person’s maximum heart rate, and periods of low intensity.
While interval training doesn’t necessarily have to involve such high intensities. And can alternate between moderate and low intensity instead.
Is HIIT safe for seniors?
For beginners and seniors, HIIT might not be the best option to start out with. Because with HIIT, it is easy to over-exert yourself, especially when just starting out. Because HIIT involves such high intensities, it is more stressful on your body and your heart.
For seniors, the risk of heart conditions like arrhythmia increases, and so too does the risk associated with high-intensity exercise.
Even if you don’t have a known heart condition, extreme high-intensity exercise could cause an incidence of an undiscovered artery condition. Always monitor your heart health and progress slowly when doing any form of exercise.
Instead of starting with HIIT, interval training with moderate to low intensities is recommended for seniors and beginners because it is easier to monitor when you are getting closer to your limits and stop yourself from pushing too hard.
How often and for how long should you do Interval training?
While there is no exact perfect training routine that will suit everybody. Continuous aerobic exercise is usually done for 20 minutes or more. And generally, most seniors should aim to do some form of cardiovascular exercise at least 2-3 times a week.
Now you have an idea of what interval training is, and why cardiovascular exercise is important, especially for seniors. You can use this training method in your existing workout routine, or start a new routine.
There are many ways interval training can be incorporated into your training to help improve and maintain your cardiovascular fitness.
I am a strength and fitness coach with 5 years of experience working for gyms and working on my own as a mobile trainer. I have done weight training instruction both in group and one-on-one settings. Myself, I am interested in strength sports and have trained in powerlifting for 10 years and kickboxing and karate for nine years.