How to start exercising over 45? Start with this one simple change.
For years we have been telling the public to get “moderate to vigorous” exercise for about 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. In Canada we changed these recommendations a few years ago to 150 minutes of exercise per week, in 10-minute bouts or more. I have a confession to make: even at these seemingly low levels of activity, we have failed miserably at getting people moving.
What we have also discovered in the past decade or so, is that what we are doing in the other 23 and hours of our day might be just as important as the 30 minutes of exercise. To be clear, regular structured exercise is important, but small bouts of activity throughout your day are also vital.
Most people report that they don’t get enough physical activity because they don’t have enough time in their day. I get it. Time seems to be the most precious thing that we own and yet most of us feel like we are living with time scarcity.
If you are meeting physical activity recommendations, well done you. I would imagine that you are purposefully carving out time to make sure that you take care of your physical and mental health through exercise. If you’re not currently exercising, no judgement. But for both of you sisters, I’ve got good news.
An editorial was just released in the British Journal of Sports Medicine about using “high-intensity incidental physical activity” or HIIPA for short, and boy-oh-boy is it doing the rounds in the media. HIIPA’s cousin HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been a workout tool for athletes for years, and more recently, has been used very successfully with a variety of different populations for various applications like weight loss and cardiovascular endurance.
Some of the problems with using HIIT outside of an athletic population is having proper supervision for folks doing such intense exercise, and motivating participants to do exercise that is inherently tough to do.
The thought about HIIPA is that most people have opportunities for vigorous activity throughout their day, and those small bouts of activity may have similar profound health benefits to HIIT. The folks that get an even bigger “bang for their buck” using the HIIPA approach are those who are regularly inactive, older people, those who are overweight, and women.
I seek out HIIPA opportunities all the time in my own everyday life. I would encourage you to do the same. Here’s some of the things to consider if think HIIPA might be a good fit for you:
1. Think about the movement that you do throughout the day that is separate from any regular or structured exercise that you already get. You would be surprised at how many choices we make throughout the day that nudge us towards taking a less active option. I have a rule – I never take an elevator or the escalator if stairs are an option. And to make the HIIPA choice, I go up the stairs as quickly as I can.
2. Keep your bouts of HIIPA short but intense. You only need 30 seconds to two minutes of vigorous intensity activity at a time. Don’t go above an intensity that is comfortable for you.
3. Think about the 0-10 rule of intensity. If you measure how hard you’re working with a scale of 0-10, zero would be lying on the couch and 10 would be the fastest speed you could run for 30 seconds. You can think about moderate activity as being in the “6” zone and HIIPA is more like a “7” and above.
4. Fit in HIIPA often. The best way to reap the benefits of HIIPA is to look for multiple time throughout the day that you can get a short bout of vigorous intensity activity.
5. Make daily activity a lifestyle. Even if you get a regular 30 minutes or more of structured exercise, focus on ways that you can add in little activity “snacks”.
Focusing on integrating HIIPA into your daily life means that you don’t have to “fit in” activity. You simply have to hack the activities you already do and choose times in the day that you can fit in small bouts of vigorous activity.
Your body will thank you for that little bit of extra intensity in your activities. Trust me on this one.
Your sister in health,
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