A recent article in the New York Times titled The Best Exercise For Aging Muscles reports on a study that attempts to answer the question: What is the best mode of exercise for aging bodies?
Spoiler alert: the studies’ answer is high intensity interval training (HIIT).
Before you immediately run out the door for a speed session or hire a personal trainer to bark at you to “Go harder!”, put down the stopwatch and headband and let’s talk.
Aging can be a destructive force of nature: skin sags, things grow you wish did not, things you wish would grow refuse and deep down on a cellular level, we begin to lose vigor and strength. The desire to stay robust grows strong.
While the researchers in this study are very reputable, keep in mind, this is one singular study with a small sample size and of a short duration. The true take away here, from a scientific perspective, is that we should give this another go (or two) with a bigger population and over a longer period of time to truly validate the results before we start basing major lifestyle habits on them.
However, that desire to never grow old lingers and thus you may question:
Should I incorporate HIIT into my exercise routine?
If you have never exercised before or have a condition that may preclude you from exercising with intensity the answer is an emphatic “NO“. If you are you taking prescription medications, in a diseased state or have bio-mechanical limitations, you should consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program and it likely won’t begin with HIIT.
If you are not already in a regular, consistent exercise routine, the answer is “Yes, but not right now.” It’s called “high intensity” for a reason and it’s not something to rush into. If you are otherwise well and interested in changing your health, slowly begin an exercise program that speaks to you and work your way up to it. You can get to that place where you build increase strength and vigor, just maybe not today.
And that’s okay.
Life isn’t a race. It’s a journey. Take your time and build up.
If you have been exercising regularly, are relatively healthy and are open to adding a little spice to your routine, the answer is “Sure, why not?!”
Again, start out easy, build up intensity over time and if you see improvement in your performance and positive changes in your mental state, keep at it. Consistency is still the key.
Note: if HIIT leaves you tired and popping painkillers like skittles, then it is time to back off. Exercise should leave you feeling invigorated, happy and ready for anything. You should not be left in a puddle on the couch for the next week.
Whether you give HIIT a try or not, in the end, it comes down to this:
The best exercise for you is the one you will do.
Figure out what that one thing is and do it.
A study saying HIIT is the latest and greatest method to beat Father Time is fine, but if it is not something you would realistically incorporate into your life, it doesn’t matter.
The one thing we know for sure is our bodies are engineered for movement.
Listen to your body.
Good things will come if you keep moving.
Oh, and one more thing, exercise will improve your health but it won’t make hair grow back on your head. 😉