Health care providers and researchers boast of exercise's many advantages for people of all ages. When combined with a nutritious diet, seniors may reduce their risks of and improve their management of various chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory problems. Any type of movement can lead to countless benefits. However, when it comes to arthritis, one method of exercise may be better than others.
High-intensity training improves health
Aerobic workouts and strength training promote good health in a multitude of areas of the body, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend seniors do muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week and 30-minute moderate-intensity cardio workouts five days each week. However, researchers from St. Olavs Hospital and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that a slight alteration of that agenda may be better for relieving arthritis pain.
In a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, the investigators observed 18 women - seven with rheumatoid arthritis and 11 with adult juvenile idiopathic arthritis - while they participated in a rigorous 10-week training program. Two times each week, the women did four four-minute intervals while on spinning bikes.
The researchers found that there was less inflammation and increased oxygen intake, which not only alleviated arthritic symptoms, but reduced the women's risk of heart disease. Body mass index also went down, while muscle mass increased.
While the study was small, it shows promise for seniors who experience discomfort from the condition. With further observations, researchers may be able to create a high-intensity workout just for people with arthritis.
"The women who participated in the study found this to be a good, effective method of training, and are mostly very motivated to continue because of the progress they've seen," said Anja Bye, a senior researcher at NTNU and one of the authors of the study.
Adding high intensity to your workout
High-intensity interval training can be used for both building strength and improving cardiovascular health. Whether you're doing repetitions when lifting weights or alternating between short and long bursts of exercise, you'll do your body good. This type of exercise involves pushing yourself to your maximum capability to get your heart rate up, Everyday Health explained. However, you shouldn't just jump right into high-intensity workouts. You need to build up to them so you don't overexert yourself.
According to Anja Garcia, a certified fitness instructor, your body becomes accustomed to your regular training schedule, which means you may stop seeing benefits. Interval training adds a new technique to the mix that helps ensure that you don't get used to the workout too quickly. It can help build muscle mass, manage your weight and prevent cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
While any amount of high-intensity interval training can improve your health, sessions that are at least 15 to 20 minutes work best, Wayne Westcott, fitness research director at Quincy College, told Prevention magazine. Shorter workouts will provide some benefits, but longer periods will lead to an increase in calories burned and higher heart rates.
If you're just beginning high-intensity interval training, start slow, Everyday Health recommended. You don't have to add any new workout plans, and, instead, you'll be able to alter the exercise you already get. No matter what workout you're doing, warm up by starting out at your normal pace for the first few minutes. Then you can slowly increase your speed and incline in short intervals. If you're out for a stroll, speed-walk or run in 20- to 30-second bursts. Hills are also great for adding that extra challenge to your workout. As you become accustomed to training, you can increase your speed and the length of the intervals.
Before you start any sort of high-intensity training, you should consult your doctor or home care provider to ensure that you know your limits.