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Why Are More Seniors Following a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Wellness Plan?

Feb 12, 2020

Everyone knows the benefits of regular exercise. But what about the benefits of something a little (or a lot) more intensive? If you’re involved in any sort of gym or physical fitness community, you’ve probably heard about high-intensity interval training, or HIIT.

“HIIT is a workout that alternates between very intense exercise and short rest periods,” says Lynda Marino, Marketing Director at Canterbury Woods Williamsville. “It’s been proven to boost muscle growth, improve aerobic function burn fat at a higher rate and even improve cognitive function.”

According to, HIIT is all in the technique – how you do your cardio. Instead of doing a 30-minute stretch of moderate and steady aerobic activity, you alternate bursts of activity where you give it your all, and then recover with slower intervals. Now, researchers are just starting to realize the benefits it can have for older adults.

A recent study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism suggests that high-intensity workouts can potentially have implications for treating dementia. In the study, researchers discovered that seniors who exercised using short bursts of activity saw an improvement of up to 30% in their memory performance. Participants who worked out at a more normal, moderate rate saw no improvement.

“As our population ages, more and more seniors are expected to develop dementias like Alzheimer’s disease, which makes research like this so important,” says Lynda. “Lifestyle plays such a huge role in health and well-being for older adults, and the biggest benefit you can do is physical activity.”

Lynda says that the importance of physical activity for whole-body wellness is one of the reasons why the fitness center at Canterbury Woods Williamsville recently underwent a $2.4 million renovation. The center has a fully-appointed gym with state-of-the-art wellness offerings, including HUR equipment (the #1 exercise equipment company for seniors), a heated, indoor swimming pool, spa, and many opportunities to improve health with classes from Aqua Fit to Tai Chi and more – including HIIT training.

“At Canterbury Woods Williamsville, we understand the importance that physical health has on your overall wellness,” she says. “Alongside our state-of-the-art fitness center, we offer a variety of choices that promote physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and social well-being. We invite you to see how easy it is to live life well at our one-of-a-kind senior living community.”

The Benefits of HIIT

Why is HIIT training becoming more and more popular among seniors? Simply put, because it works – and is surprisingly easy to do. Any activity that is high-energy and exhausting can be used as a HIIT workout, including a variety of pain-free, safe exercises. Best of all, “exhausting” and “intensity” are relative to each individual – so you don’t have to worry about being a champion runner or weight-lifter. High-intensity to one person could mean walking very briskly or doing push-ups. Others may sprint, or do jumping jacks or other activities that are suited to their exercise and fitness level. It’s an entirely customizable form of workout – and you don’t need any fancy equipment to get started.

If you’re a senior interested in starting a HIIT workout for yourself, here are some tips to follow:

  1. Start slow. You don’t want to leap right into HIIT, especially if you don’t exercise regularly. You’ll want to have a baseline level of fitness before you start adding in your bursts of activity. It’s suggested that you have worked up to a month of doing cardiovascular exercises for at least 20 minutes, three times a week.
  2. Talk to your doctor. Before you begin any form of wellness plan, you should discuss safety tips with your physician and determine if you’re well enough for physical activity. He or she can give you pointers about what types of exercises to start with, as well as how far you can safely push yourself.
  3. Warm up before every session. The last thing you want is to fall, break a bone, pull a hip or cause some other grievous health issue because you went from zero to sixty. Before every workout – HIIT or otherwise – be sure to take the time to warm up, stretch and ensure your muscles and joints are working properly. This gives you an opportunity to see how your body is performing that day so that you can adjust exercises accordingly.
  4. Don’t try exercises you aren’t familiar with. It’s better to learn the proper way to do specific exercises (push-ups, burpees, lunges, etc.) at a slow speed before attempting them in a HIIT practice. This will help you avoid injuries.
  5. Take your health needs into consideration. For example, if you have joint issues, it’s best not to try high-impact activities.
  6. Listen to your body and be patient. This is a marathon, not a race. Start out with shorter intensity intervals and longer rest intervals. If you find yourself feeling dizzy, nauseous or short of breath during or after any workout, stop immediately and see your doctor.

Sample HIIT Workouts for Seniors

Treadmill. Warm up with a five-minute walk or slow jog, depending on your energy level. Then, begin your work and rest intervals: 20 seconds of sprinting followed by 90 seconds of walking. Repeat this 4-6 times, and then cool down with a five-minute walk.

Exercise bike. Warm up with five minutes of light cycling, then transition into 20 seconds of high energy followed by 90 seconds of light energy. Repeat 4-6 times and then cool down with two minutes of light cycling and then two minutes of walking.

Swimming laps. Warm up with a slow swim for one full lap. Then alternate between one sprinting lap and one slow swim lap. Repeat 4-6 times, ending with a slow swim lap to cool down.

For more information about developing a HIIT wellness plan, please contact us at (716) 427-6928.

Find Your Fulfillment

Canterbury Woods Williamsville is a Continuing Care Retirement Community like you’ve never seen. Canterbury Woods Williamsville is not only close to the perfect location for rest and relaxation, thanks to 62 tranquil acres, but there’s also easy access to Buffalo’s urban locations. Offering the highest quality lifestyle and security, you’ll be part of a welcoming community consisting of both friends and neighbors while experiencing gracious living, first-class health care and the freedom to create the lifestyle you desire.

Continuum of Care

As a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), Canterbury Woods Communities provide a comfortable environment and first-rate services to support every level of need. Assisted living apartments allow Williamsville residents to benefit from additional support while maintaining their independent lifestyle. If skilled nursing, rehabilitation or memory care is ever needed, residents can experience the support they require. They can also enjoy all this and more at our sister community in Buffalo. 

Contact us today to discover more about Canterbury Woods Williamsville! (716) 427-6928

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