Can Older People Incorporate Interval Training?

When you think of interval training, what comes to mind? 

If you’re like me, the first thought is high intensity exercise sessions like many fitness bootcamps or crossfit workouts. 

When you ask the question, can (or should) older individual incorporate interval training into their workout routines, the initial answer would probably be no. But in actuality, interval training doesn’t require the really high intensity exercises to be effective. 

Instead, interval training can successfully be accomplished by working at a higher intensity for a duration, followed by a low intensity recovery period. 

And when you think about it that way, there’s no reason that anyone shouldn’t include interval training into their workouts, even the elderly. 

How Interval Training for the Elderly Might Look 

With interval training, or any training plan for that matter, the most important factor should always be the safety of those participating in the workout. With older individuals, you need to keep in mind what their health and fitness goals are, and design a program to meet those needs accordingly. 

Since most older individuals aren’t looking to add lots of muscle mass, drop body fat into the single digits, or compete in body building/athletic competitions, you first need to understand what they are training for. Maintaining heart health, improving circulation, controlling their weight, and socializing are common reasons that the elderly exercise. 

For the older individuals, a couple of tweaks to a normal day on the treadmill can provide a great interval workout. If the individual regularly walks on the treadmill for 20 minutes a day at 2.5 mph, for example, they could start there. Then, after 3 minutes for a warm up, raise the incline up to 2.5 or 3%, and keep walking at the same speed for 1 minute. Then go back down to an incline of 1% for a “recovery” minute. Keep going back and forth, ending with a few minutes at 0% incline for the cool down. 

By changing the incline of the treadmill you are increasing the intensity for a short time before allowing an equal amount of recovery at the lower incline, which provides an excellent interval training workout for an older individual.

The Benefits of Interval Training for Older Individuals 

Some might wonder why even bother with interval training for older people. After all, just being active on a regular basis is good for the health of your body and mind. 

This is true, and interval training isn’t for everyone. But for those individuals that are looking to get the most out of their time exercising, an interval training session can be a great option for a couple of reasons.

  • Interval Training Adds Variety—If you’re getting bored of your regular routine, interval training can be a great way to spice things up. Variety in workouts is great for the body. 
  • Increased Health Gains—If you increase the intensity of any workout, even for short intervals, you are going to force your body to adapt and get stronger. By increasing the intensity for older individuals, you are forcing the heart, muscles, and bones to respond and get stronger. Some researchers have even suggested that interval training can slow down the aging process.
  • Less Time Needed for a Good Workout—This is one of my favorite aspects of interval training. By increasing the intensity during an interval workout, you can shorten the length of time spent working out but still get the same results.

Is Interval Training for Everyone? 

Of course not! 

But age should not be a determining factor of whether or not interval training is for you. 

If done safely, and with proper supervision in certain instances, interval training is a great style of working out that can be included in any workout program. No matter how old you are.

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