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  • Writer's pictureKim K

Are HIIT Workouts Actually Good for ALL Bodies and Ages?

I recently tried HIIT* workouts during the COVID Lockdown. I mean, what else was I going to do, eat and drink only? Of course, I did! I loved every minute of eating, cooking, and drinking lots of wine!

Maybe that is why I tried the HIIT workouts? The amount I was eating and drinking the weight I would have gained would have taken me a year to lose!

What does HIIT training mean?

High-Intensity Interval Training typically involves periods of extreme exertion where you push your heart rate to greater than 85 percent of your maximum capacity, followed by periods of rest.*

Why HIIT MIGHT not be for everyone

I started with a Burpee challenge with myself. I despise Burpees; actually, I'm not too fond of HIIT workouts either, but I needed to up my cardio. I swear when you are my age, it honestly does take a year to lose 10 pounds!

So back to my Self Motivated Burpee Challenge. I started with as many burpees I could do in a minute and did two rounds, and that was it! It was enough. I paired it with a 3-5 mile walk or a couple of hours of Pilates. I was teaching Zoom group and needed them to see the exercises, so I worked out with them most of the hour. I admit it was a built-in workout.

I have a rotator cuff tear, so I modified my push-ups, but I did the jumps. So my version I got up to 20 Burpees in a minute on the first round and them 11-15 on the second round. I felt pretty good that I decided t take a HIIT class and do that for 30mins. Then my back started hurting. So I cut the burpees challenge and just did the HIIT classes once a week. I then joined a 6-week workout challenge, and it was ALL HIIT workouts three times a week. I am in trouble! My back is cranky already, but I tried it and left after week 2. My hip and back locked up I couldn't surf, walk, and Pilates began hurting. I then had to go back to PT. When I got out of bed, I had sharp shooting pain in the SI joint; my hip started clicking when I walked, and I had to stop my walks. Everything stopped, but PT and Pilates. I am so grateful PT was open, or else I would not be walking.

Are HIIT workouts suitable for the aging population?

So this experience has led me to ask the question: "Are HIIT workouts suitable for the aging population? "In my experience, they are not for me, but the following reasons prevented me from benefiting from it.

1) I never worked out this way even when I was dancing professionally. Especially when I was dancing professionally, I recall when I worked out this way, I would become stiff in my joints, tight in my muscles, and possibly could have injured myself.

2) I have many injuries from dancing, one being a torn labrum in the hip. HIIT aggravated it because of the jumping I was doing.

3)The most important reason is I needed a trainer to watch my technique and a better floor to jump on! Tile is out of the question, even with a rug on it.

Don't Take My Word for It - Let's Take a Look at HIIT Workout Studies

I dug around and found some studies on HIIT workouts. I didn't want to bash it because some of my friends love it, but they have a trainer and probably know their limits better than I since they train this way.

The study findings – presented by Associate Professor Jinger Gottschall at the 2018 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting provide evidence that any more than 30-40 minutes of HIIT in a maximum training zone per week can reduce performance and potentially result in a greater risk of injury.

According to Gottschall, the research findings highlight the urgent need for evidence-based guidelines around HIIT. "Currently, there are no guidelines concerning the greatest amount of HIIT people should do in a week for the optimal training effect," she says. "Given the extreme intensity* involved in this kind of exercise, it's imperative that maximum guidelines are provided in the same way that minimum guidelines have been in the past. We hope this study will be instrumental in helping make these recommendations official."

Bryce Hastings, Head of Research at Les Mills – who worked in collaboration with Professor Gottschall on the research says: "What our research findings tell us is that there is only so much HIIT a regular exerciser can do in one week before the effects are compromised.

"The findings have scientifically established that less is more when it comes to HIIT and that any more than 30-40 minutes working out at above 90 percent of the maximum heart rate per week doesn't help achieve transformative effects. In fact, too much actually hinders."

"In scientific terms, what we've observed by measuring the stress response in the saliva of our study participants is that those who do more than 30-40 minutes of HIIT per week are unable to produce a positive stress response," says Gottschall.

"If you want to get the best possible results from HIIT, our recommendation, based on these findings, is to balance your weekly HIIT sessions with other, less intense cardiovascular and strength workouts. It's also imperative that you let your body recover properly after a HIIT session. This way, you're likely to perform better when you do your HIIT workouts and benefit from the positive results." A study done on 35 individuals 28 women and 7 men who exercise 8 hours a week. ( age unknown )

I couldn't find a study about men and women over the age of 50, but note it will be entirely different since the women will be hitting menopause and some men will enter andropause (male menopause).

In my experience, HIIT workouts are VERY popular with women in menopause; there needs to be research done in my opinion.

What are the benefits of HIIT Workouts?

I did find some information on the HIIT works outs that can be beneficial.

The Benefits of HIIT are

  • 1) Increased Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)

  • 2) Altered body composition.

  • 3) Increased aerobic capacity.

  • 4) HIIT is beneficial for the endurance athlete.

  • 5) Great for your heart.

  • 6) Perfect for a busy schedule.

  • 7) You're more likely to stick with it

"Training more vigorously, pushing your pace into the anaerobic zone, will result in improved oxygen utilization, improved cardio-respiratory system, greater ability to tolerate lactic acid build-up, and improved endurance. Competitive athletes must do this to improve. There is also some evidence that interval training - fast for a few minutes, then slower for a few minutes - burns calories more effectively than a steady, moderate pace. Only those with coronary disease or structural heart disease need to be concerned about keeping their heart rate below a certain level." Dr. Milechman California Pacific Medical Center

An example of a 25-minute HIIT workout is as follows:

  • 5-minute warmup

  • 15-minute HIIT circuit:

    • intense exercise for 15 seconds

    • rest 10 seconds

    • intense exercise for 15 seconds

    • rest 20 seconds

    • intense exercise for 15 seconds

    • rest 30 seconds

    • intense exercise for 15 seconds

    • rest 40 seconds

    • intense exercise for 15 seconds

    • rest 50 seconds

  • Repeat this circuit three more times

  • 5-minute stretching session to cool down

People can either stop exercising in the rest periods or switch to gentle exercise, such as walking or slow cycling.

So maybe I can develop a Pilates HIIT workout that won't be so detrimental to my body. I will have to try it! That will be my next blog post and further research! Stay tuned!

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