Are you a woman over 40 who’s finding it hard to lose weight or looking for a workout to boost your metabolism? Do you find yourself crunched for time to fit in your workout goals? Then give high intensity interval training a try! High intensity interval training (or HIIT) workouts are intense and short, typically lasting about 20 minutes. They can be done using just your body weight (e.g. jumping jacks) or equipment (e.g. treadmill, jumping rope). You usually begin with a steady warmup of 3-5 minutes followed by short bursts of activity (e.g. 30 seconds or a minute) followed by a slow active recovery period (e.g. 1 minute to 2 minutes). The pattern is repeated for a number of cycles, usually 4 to 8) and ends with a slow recovery period.
Studies have shown that during HIIT you burn more calories than when taking part in a longer cardiovascular workout. The additional appeal of this type of program is that it improves your cardiovascular endurance, lowers insulin resistance and burns abdominal body fat (something that often affects women over 40, especially after menopause). Not only that, but you keep torching more calories after the workout too!
High Intensity Interval Training for the Time-Crunched
“From a research standpoint we know that the number one cause that people don’t exercise is lack of time so high intensity interval training has allowed people to cut their workout times substantially,” says Yuri Feito PhD MPH, ACSM. “People are finding it helpful and people are sticking to it too. So I think that’s a sort of win-win situation for most people.”
Since HIIT is an intense form of exercise, get the OK first from your health practitioner.
“The one thing that we need to be aware of not only for the 60 year olds, but also for the 40 year olds is that this is going to be high intensity training,” says Feito “According to the American College of Sports Medicine, anyone who is going to do high intensity training or any kind of high intensity exercise should consult with a physician before starting this type of program.”
Feito says the type of HIIT program you follow to boost your metabolism depends on whether you’re an exercise newbie, your health and your current workout routine. Women over 40 who are new to this type of exercise should follow a program with longer rest periods.
“You have someone over 40 and they’ve never done this type of training before, the interval should probably start with a 1:2, one interval of work to two intervals of rest,” says Feito. For example, this could be 1 minute of fast walking, followed by 2 minutes of slow walking.
“As you get more proficient, then you can do a 1:1 ratio where you do let’s say 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest but you do that five times. That requires a lot more stamina, it requires a lot more strength depending on what you’re doing and it definitely requires a lot more endurance so I wouldn’t suggest that to be the first thing that someone does.”
Rate of Perceived Exertion is Important
While HIIT is great for building cardiovascular endurance (you may reach 80 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate during the working phase) your heart rate monitor isn’t the best tool to measure the effectiveness of your routine.
“It’s going to be really, really hard to really measure heart rate response at that point because there’s a slight lag on the heart rate response,” says Feito. “As you get into your interval, you’re not going to have that immediate response in heart rate during the exercise. What’s going to happen is that you’re going to get into your interval; your heart rate is going to lag a couple of seconds behind, and then it’s going to stay up after you’re done with your interval.”
Feito recommends instead that you go by how you feel, using the rate of perceived exertion, or RPE scale where 6 is no exertion and 20 is maximum exertion. During the HIIT workout, you should be aiming for between 15 (hard) and 19 (extremely hard) on the scale.
Recent studies have also shown that for stable patients with coronary artery disease, heart failure or high cardiovascular risk, HIIT appears safe and better tolerated by patients than moderate-intensity continuous exercise.