How to Exercise More With Less Time: Interval Training For Seniors

Today we’re going to  look at endurance. As you know endurance is part of the four pillars of senior fitness.  And that includes strength, flexibility, balance and endurance.

Endurance is one of the areas that’s frequently overlooked by seniors. This is because as a senior we mostly need strength and balance if we want to be independent. We generally don’t think of our heart and lungs unless we have a chronic condition like COPD or asthma.

Endurance training is important because this is how we strengthen our heart and lungs. Endurance training improves the ability of our heart to pump oxygenated blood from the lungs to all parts of our body. It also improves the ability of our muscles to use that oxygen when it arrives.  Oxygen is our body’s engine. When we improve our endurance, we’ll feel more energized and strong.

To get the benefits of endurance training we need to exercise in our training zone. Your training zone is between 50 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.

So if you are 70, take your pulse for 10 seconds and it should be between 12 and 20 beats.  It’s that easy. If you like hi tech, try a real time heart rate monitor watch. These are available everywhere in the 20 to 100 dollar range. This way you can see exactly how you are doing.  Just keep in mind; the cheaper ones are not as accurate.

So you say, ok Doug, I am 70 years old and I can’t run, and don’t have an exercise bike at home, what should I do? Well, we now know that if we perform a short, high intensity exercise, we can get the same benefits as a long exercise session of running, swimming, or biking. Here is a simple and easy senior high intensity workout that only takes four and a half minutes.

Make sure you warm up before the exercise session. Start with 30 seconds of marching, trying to get your heart rate as high as tolerated. Then walk for 1 minute while taking your pulse. Repeat this three times. As you improve, extend your time slowly to 2 minutes of marching.

Try incorporating an endurance workout like this 2 or 3 times per week for best results.

If you’ve been living a sedentary lifestyle, definitely get medical clearance from you physician.  You should have a foundational level of fitness before you start a high intensity program. This means wait until you’ve done at least 4 weeks of moderate exercise. If you found this video helpful, give me a like at the bottom and please subscribe to keep this channel going.

Do you have another way to incorporate endurance into your senior exercise program? Let me know in the comments section below. Take care.

About the Author Coach Doug

Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.

  • Hi Doug!
    Amazing article! My grandfather is always in a hurry when we are exercising and gives excuses to leave early. But, after reading your article I can surely make him exercise more in less time. Thanks for these helpful suggestions.

  • Carol says:

    Thank you Doug. You make it simple. I will incorporate this into my lifestyle.

  • Mary Salinsky says:

    thanks for all the advice. what is the difference please between ‘marching’ (which I understand to be walking like soldiers) and ‘walking’ ?

    • Nancy Heifferon says:

      I think the difference is that marching is more strenuous than walking so it gets your heart rate up higher. Marching is more strenuous because you have to raise your knees higher and move your arms more forcefully, using more muscles and effort to do that. You could also up the effort by moving faster while marching and then recover with the periods of slower gentler walking.

    • Doug Schrift says:

      That is right. The larger your movement when using your arms and legs, the more oxygen they will require, and the more your heart will have to respond by increasing the volume of blood pumped out.

  • I’m 73 and have been doing HIIT 4 times per week on a treadmill for the last 7 months. I do 2 minutes at 1.8 miles per hour and 2 minutes at 2.7 mph with a 3% incline for 35 minutes. I spend 10 minutes warming up and 10 mins cooling down. I also do 30 mins of weight training on the weight machines at the gym after the treadmill and after stretching. Along with a diet of mostly vegetables and fruits, no added sugar, no processed foods or fast foods, I’ve lost 40 lbs and feel better than I’ve ever felt.

    • Doug Schrift says:

      Wonderful effort. You are an inspiration! That is how to stay strong and independent as you age. Your heart is adapting to the stress by pumping more blood, and your muscles are becoming better at taking in oxygen. And your reduced weight is much better on your joints.

  • Darlene Borland says:

    Dog-padding back and forth across the width of a pool got my heart rate up after only 4 laps. I cannot swim due to an injury to my back and so my physical therapist suggested I get into a pool and just get moving.

  • Nancy says:

    Should one do this more than once a day?

    • Doug Schrift says:

      Endurance work is stressful to the body and you will need time to recuperate, which means every other day is a better choice depending on how hard you exercise. Your body needs time to repair itself after your workout.

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