HIIT Over 50: A 20-Minute, Low-Impact Workout for Beginners

Fifty seems to be the magic number for a call to action. At 50, the changes in body composition, metabolism, resilience and overall health that started in your 30s seem to really pick up speed. But life after 50 isn't "all downhill from here." In fact, it can be the perfect time to implement healthy changes.

It's never too late to start doing HIIT workouts. (Image: vm/E+/GettyImages)

While muscle loss is thought to be an inevitable side-effect of aging, an August 2019 study from Frontiers in Physiology suggests that we're not powerless against it. While active individuals have more muscle cell activity than inactive people, when older sedentary individuals start exercising, the study found their muscle cells are as just as capable of "remodeling" as those of master athletes.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) may seem like a young person's workout, but as with starting any exercise program, it's never too late to start. In fact, another August 2019 study published in Frontiers in Physiology found that non-athletes over 50 who started an intense endurance program had similar body compositions to athletes of the same age who'd been training for much longer.

Ready to reap all the benefits of HIIT? Try this HIIT sequence designed by Bonnie Micheli and Tracy Romer, co-founders and trainers at Shred415.

Ready to try HIIT? It's never too late to start. (Image: Graphic: LIVESTRONG.com Creative)

Warm-Up

Do: Three to five minutes of easy cardio and dynamic stretching. Do 30 seconds of each of these exercises.

  • Downward-facing dog to plank to upward-facing dog
  • Lunges
  • Butt kicks
  • Marching in place

Move 1: Downward-Facing Dog to Plank to Upward-Facing Dog

  1. Begin in downward-facing dog — balancing on hands and feet in an inverted V position.
  2. Lower your hips into a plank.
  3. Bend your arms to lower your body to hover above the ground, then press into upward-facing dog with arms straight and chest pressing forward.
  4. Raise your hips to the sky to return to downward-facing dog.

Tip

Modify this pose by lowering your knees to the floor in the plank and upward-facing dog positions.

Move 2: Lunge

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Step forward with your right leg.
  3. Bend both knees and lower your body until both knees form 90-degree angles and your left knee hovers above the floor.
  4. Return to standing and repeat on the other side. Alternate legs with each rep.

Move 3: Butt Kick

  1. Stand up tall.
  2. Bend your right knee, kicking your right heel up toward your glutes while keeping your thighs together and quickly return your foot to the floor.
  3. Switch sides and continue alternating legs.

Tip

This is a quick movement, like a flick. Switch quickly between legs and don't hold it at the top.

Move 4: Marching in Place

  1. Walk or march in place with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. As you raise each foot, move the opposite arm forward as if you're marching.

The Workout

Do: Five minutes of cardio on a treadmill, pushing yourself to increase the pace and incline at each one-minute interval. If you don't have access to a treadmill, head outdoors and plan your route so you encounter some slight inclines along the way.

Do: Each exercise at max capacity for one minute with a 30-second break in-between.

Move 1: Glute Bridge

  1. Start lying on your back with knees bent and arms at your sides.
  2. Keep your abs tight and press into your feet, upper back and arms to lift your hips off the ground.
  3. Pause and hold for one second before lowering back down.

Move 2: Bird-Dog Reach and Crunch

  1. Start on all fours with your knees under your hips and hands under shoulders.
  2. Extend your right arm and left leg.
  3. Crunch inward so your right elbow and left knee touch.
  4. Extend back out.
  5. Do 30 seconds on one side before switching to the left arm and right leg for 30 seconds.

Move 3: Forearm Plank Hold

  • Start lying on your stomach and lift up so only your forearms and toes are touching the ground, make sure to keep your back flat as possible.

Move 4: Sit-Up With Cross-Body Punches

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and hands behind your head.
  2. Engage your abs and sit up to bring your chest toward your thighs.
  3. At the top, punch right, then punch left.

Move 5: Forearm Side Plank Hold

  1. Lie on your right side, supporting yourself with your right forearm on the ground.
  2. Lift up so that you're balancing on your feet and forearm. (Modify by dropping your bottom knee or both knees to the ground.)
  3. Do one minute on each side, resting for 30 seconds in between.

Move 6: Reverse Lunge

  1. Stand upright, then step back with your right foot.
  2. Bend both knees to 90 degrees.
  3. Step your right foot back to standing.
  4. Continue on the right leg for 30 seconds, then the left leg for 30 seconds.

Move 7: Downward Dog to Push-Up

  1. Begin with your legs hip-distance apart and your hands on the ground in front of you in an inverted V.
  2. Lower your hips toward the floor into a plank. Drop to your knee if you want a modification.
  3. Bend your arms to lower your chest to the floor.
  4. Straighten your arms, then press your hips back up to the starting position.

Move 8: Squat

  1. Start standing, then hinge your hips and bend your knees to sit back like you would into a chair.
  2. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your knees behind your toes.
  3. Use your legs to push you back up to standing.

Move 9: Low-Impact Burpee

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Bend your legs and squat, placing your hands on the ground in front of you.
  3. Keeping your shoulders directly over your hands, step back one foot at a time to end up in a plank.
  4. Step forward, one foot at a time.
  5. Stand up as you raise your arms overhead.

The Cooldown

Do: Three to five minutes of light cardio and static stretching. Hold each of the below stretches for 30 seconds.

  • Quad stretch
  • Runners lunge
  • Overhead triceps stretch
  • Forward fold

Move 1: Quad Stretch

  1. Lift your foot as if you're doing a butt kick and catch it with your hand. Place your opposite hand on a wall or chair for support if you need it or reach it into the air. You should feel a stretch down the front of your thigh.
  2. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, keeping your knee down.
  3. Release and switch legs.

Move 2: Runners Lunge

  1. Place your hands on a wall in front of you, arms out straight.
  2. Step one leg forward and bend your front knee, keeping your back leg straight.
  3. Lean in until you feel a stretch in your back leg.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.
  5. Return to standing and switch legs.

Move 3: Overhead Triceps Stretch

  1. Raise your left arm straight up, keeping your shoulders down.
  2. Bend your elbow, dropping your left hand behind your head.
  3. Use your right arm to hold your left elbow and stretch for 30 seconds, deepening the stretch without pulling.
  4. Straighten both arms and switch sides.

Move 4: Forward Fold

  1. Standing straight with your legs together and fold forward at your hips.
  2. Slowly roll up, one vertebrae at a time, beginning at your hips, raising your head and neck last.
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